Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: Did Labour fumble their duty of care towards Kiri Allan?

The end of Kiri Allan’s political career throws up a couple of key questions.

One, does it also spell the end of the government as in, the final straw? They look too unstable as a party, they are losing too many ministers, they have no one else to take on serious portfolios and the management of our country now looks like a school project.

And two, was enough duty of care employed by the Labour leadership to look out for her?

Labour is desperately trying to paint itself as not responsible for any of this. They did their best, they offered her help, counselling, mentorship, they say.

Hipkins says he spoke with her and was reassured she was fine. But how often do people in a hole, or a bind, tell you they are fine when they are not? How much exploratory work was done on whether she truly was fine? And given many of us could tell just from the small snippets we saw of her in the media and from what we were hearing that she was clearly not fine, how did the Labour leadership misread it so badly?

There is an onus on leaders to really account for the wellbeing of people under that much pressure, especially people who have already stated they’re under pressure and suffering mental health issues.

You don’t just bounce back from mental health issues like you do a cold. It takes time, and lots of it.

I have experienced first-hand management which takes a pastoral approach to care and staff wellbeing. When I got a very bad dose of Covid, I felt so terrible about all the time off work I was having, I felt the weight of responsibility to turn up.

I was trying to get back to work by telling myself I was ready, but my boss's response was very clear: while we’d love you to be back we don’t want you back until you are 100% well rested and you are actually ready for it. He said it would be futile to rush back only to then relapse and need more time off. That’s a duty of care, that’s good management, and that’s taking people’s health and wellness seriously. I wanted to return, just as Kiri Allan obviously did, but management thought better of it.

So is Labour responsible here for accepting her at her word that she was fine and not looking at the bigger picture of all she was dealing with? Were they blinkered by their own desperation to steady a rocky ship and have the party out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons?

The key question is whether this affects their vote. I heard another host on this station who shall remain nameless (Mike Hosking) saying if this doesn’t show an unstable government then what does, and he predicts “a landslide” for the Nats come October.

I’m not so sure about that. Labour loyalists are hardcore. I know this personally, I'm donkey deep in family members who are hardcore Labour fans, and hardcore Labour loyalists don’t see any of this as affecting the party’s purpose.

They don’t see the failures or the lack of delivery, they love Jacinda, even now, and they don’t hold anything against the party because they can only see Red. Nothing will sway them, not even a crumbling cabinet, to vote anything but red. So the Labour party faithful won’t be moved.

It’s the swing voter who needs to be riled by this.

Will they be though? Or will this just add to a long line up of shemozzles that get forgotten about come polling day?

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.


Anonymous said...

Call me old-fashioned but shouldn't people be responsible for their own mental health? Mp's are not 18 year old kids, who have no money for an uber, so make the stupid decision to risk driving home drunk. They have 200k plus salaries, life experience and are in charge of running a country.

Anna Mouse said...

Politicians are not employees and the current they operate in runs differently from a business.

Hipkins did what he was required to do and if there is any blame it is political expediency that lead to his willingness to allow Allan back.

Allan on the other hand should have, for her career taken a harder look at her situation, spoken with people who care and made more cogent choices.

Apparently she contacted and spoke with Jackson at about 6pm on Sunday so what lengths did Jackson take to help her. Appearently not much or enough.

Blame lies across the board, but as humans we all start with a duty of care with ourselves as individuals.

Sadly, it appears that 'mental health' is starting to look more like a trope used as explanation for problems, than a real issue, which is disturbing for actual mental health sufferers.