The Labour party have a major scandal on their hands now.
Firstly, the news broke on Monday about four alleged sexual assaults at a Young Labour camp opened by the Prime Minister. At least one MP was in attendance, and at least two staffers from the Labour’s whips office.
Then news started to drip-feed out on Twitter about other incidents:
And there are more. Some MPs will be very squeamish right now, especially on the historic events.
What is clear here, though, is that there appears to be a systemic culture of abuse and denial within Labour. I certainly know of many activities that have gone on at camps past, some of which involved MPs, sitting and past. It also makes one of Ian Wishart’s stories from the last Labour government under Clark now ring true.
Labour’s ham-fisted and, frankly, tone deaf methods of dealing with this smacks of a cover-up and denial that they have an issue inside the party.
It makes all their slavering over Key’s ponytail pulling and Chris Bishop’s Snapchatting look self-serving. All the while they’ve been sitting on their own nasty scandal that may well see people jailed for serious crimes.
Cam Slater, Whaleoil
Roget, you are looking at this through a lawyers lens…don’t. The political lens, with the added #MetooNZ lens means that this is significant.
The politics will undo them, as will the coverup. The added issue is that Labour made such a song and a dance over Bishop and John Key’s pony tail…those statements from back then are being hoovered up and will thrown in their faces too…consistency of action is important in politics.
There is one case where Labour went to police over one of their staffers…it was theft. So why not go to Police over the far more serious sexual assault? In any case it is moot now as one victim HAS now gone to Police. Labour’s problem is very serious now.
Cam Slater, Whale Oil
Over at the Standard (the Labour party blog) there is a discussion about… men. But men are not the only predators: and the rage that fathers have around their children being molested is, again, ignored.
The allusion to Dirty Politics is, of course, to Cam Slater. Even though Cam is, on this occasion, correct.
What interests me right now is what Labour do next. There will be intense pressure from both the MSM and from the right (I expect the Dirty Politics crews to be in full swing). There will also be scrutiny from the progressive left including from feminists and others involved in addressing rape culture. I’m sure the anti-solidarity politics part of the left will have their reckons too, and Labour have their own internal culture that will range from clueless to progressive. There will be tensions between all those groups. I really hope that Labour gets this right, both acknowledging where they have messed up, and making clear, unequivocal, on to it statements about what will be happening next.
New Zealand is still very bad at addressing sexual assault or knowing how to talk about it, although some spaces are better than others. Yesterday a flame war started up on The Standard in discussing the sexual assaults. I came in late and saw a bunch of left and right wing men having a fight about it. Not surprised but still disappointed. So I want us to talk about how to talk about sexual assault, and I want to give a general heads up for moderation going forward.
What is not ok is to make discussions about sexual assault hostile. Women in particular want safer spaces to discuss rape culture and the politics around sexual assault, and when discussions are made hostile many women will simply not take part. Which then leaves the k?rero with men, including men who are either uneducated about sexual assault and the politics around that, or who have an agenda that doesn’t include preventing rape or making spaces safer.
My position last night was that men generally need to sit down and shut up and start listening to what women have to say. This is coming after a week of watching the backlash against Alison Mau and Paula Penfold since they started the #metoonz investigation at Stuff. That backlash has been driven mostly by older white men within journalism, but the discussion around it on twitter was also full of progressive, well meaning men, many of whom were saying good things.
The main problem with telling men to sit down and shut up is that it’s the progressive and compassionate men that will do so, and they are the ones who are usually more informed and more willing to push back against rape culture. So let me rephrase this. I wrote a post recently about #mettonz and why gender equity matters, and it applies here. If we want to solve the problems that lead to rape and rape culture, then we need to amplify the voices of the people that understand what is going on and how to address it. Women have been at the forefront of pushing back against rape culture for decades. There are many women who have important things to say, and if the space is yet again taken up by men, those voices get lost.
My request then is this. If you want to understand what is going on, then ask. If you have a good handle on what is going on, then please share from a place of informed opinion, but also please amplify the voices of women, and pay particular attention to making the space attractive for women to take part.
Weka, The Standard
The left have demonized the Catholic church priests who abandoned their vows. The scouts, the guides, the Brethren, the right wing… and demanded that they meet new standards, new rules. For the children.
They want to silence the fathers. Or remove them. For the children. So that they are safe.
But they will not do as they preach. This will not end well.
The spin is failing. The predators in the press are smelling blood.
Sexual assault obviously being the major one, but there’s so much else going on here too.
Parents not being told. The PM not being told.
A supervisor going to sleep, thus not fulfilling the fundamental basics required in terms of supervision. Alcohol being present around under-age children. MPs being contacted and assuming it was being dealt with.
It’s what I’d call a complete cluster – of catastrophic proportions.
Any event, but especially one being put on by a political party, requires supervision, (that involves people being awake) and security.
If alcohol is present, how are children there? And if they are, where’s the permission from their parents? And when they’re sexually assaulted, an offence grave enough to be reported to police, not to mention ruin lives, I don’t care what anyone says, you tell the parents.
Two things in particular have bothered me in the wake of this story.
One, Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton’s defence of his actions in not informing the PM or the parents, and two, the way the party is spinning this.
When asked if Kirton thought the PM should’ve been informed earlier, he said no. Pardon? We have never lived in a hotter climate of sexual assault prevention and awareness – yet you don’t think this is worthy of letting the PM know?
Helen Clark had a ‘no surprises’ policy. I imagine under her, Kirton would be toast. But Arden’s keeping him on.
Mike Williams, a former Labour Party president, said there was nothing he didn’t inform the PM of. Kirton though, keeps it secret – keeps his job.
Ardern looked like a possum in headlights at Monday’s post-Cabinet press conference, she seemed visually ruffled. But when asked about her demeanour – that she didn’t look well, she laughed it off claiming she’d just forgotten to touch up her makeup. A blindsided Prime Minister is a blindsided Prime Minister, no amount of lipstick would’ve covered that up.
Kate Hawkesby, NZ Herald
And Labour is starting their damage control.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and party president Nigel Haworth have just announced the suspension – and conceded Labour had failed to provide a safe environment for camp attendees.
“As a result of the incidents at the Waihi Summer Camp we have taken the decision to immediately suspend all Young Labour events,” Haworth said.
“We need to take the time to properly review issues around how best to create the safest possible environment at all our events.:”
Police confirmed this morning they are now investigating claims of sexual assaults at the camp last month.
It is alleged a 20-year-old man sexually assaulted four teenagers, all aged 16, including putting his hands down the pants of at least three of them at the Young Labour summer camp in Waihi last month.
Haworth also announced that alcohol will not be allowed at any future events where there are people under 18 present. He said an independent review alongside the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network would take place to ensure the safest possible environment in future.
“As a result of the incidents at the Waihi Summer Camp we have taken the decision to immediately suspend all Young Labour events,” said Haworth.
“We need to take the time to properly review issues around how best to create the safest possible environment at all our events.
Haworth said that Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton will be making contact with all attendees at the Waihi Summer Camp to apologise – and offer any support they need.
Haworth apologised for putting “too heavy a responsibility on our Young Labour leaders to deal with the aftermath of these incidents”.
“I apologise for that. We need to support them too.”
Ardern said the party had failed the young people who reported the sexual misconduct, and apologised.
“It has become very clear to me the extent of our failure to both provide a safe environment for those young people at the Waihi Summer Camp and to properly deal with serious concerns raised by several attendees in relation to sexual misconduct and alcohol.
“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that. It’s not good enough, we let them down.”
Ardern said she could not comment on specifics because of the complaint that has now been laid with police.