Own goals and sins of omis­sion


To mix up the sport­ing metaphors, when the gov­ern­ment was on the ropes last week, the Labour op­po­si­tion still some­how man­aged to score an own-goal.

Just as the Todd Bar­clay tap­ing scan­dal was threat­en­ing to do se­ri­ous dam­age to the Prime Min­is­ter’s pre­ferred im­age as Hon­est Bill, the no-frills straight shooter… in rode Labour, and de­flected the me­dia’s at­ten­tion.

For months, Labour leader An­drew Lit­tle has in­vested a lot of his po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal in al­le­ga­tions that low qual­ity, poorly paid stu­dents and mi­grants have been de­press­ing wages, com­pet­ing for hous­ing and (even) con­tribut­ing to road con­ges­tion in Auck­land.

Sub­se­quently, the news has sur­faced that Labour it­self im­ported over 80 for­eign ‘‘in­terns’’ to work on its elec­tion cam­paign, and housed many of them in al­legedly sub-stan­dard con­di­tions.

Bar­clay would have been grate­ful for the respite.

In fact, Bar­clay had many rea­sons to be grate­ful, de­spite the fall­out from his se­cret tap­ing of his elec­torate staff. It has hardly been a case of him clean­ing out his desk and be­ing turfed onto the pave­ment.

Re­port­edly, the CluthaSouth­land MPwill re­main on the pub­lic pay­roll for three months un­til the elec­tion, and for three more months af­ter­wards.

Since the pay rate for back­bench MPs is $160,000 a year, that amounts to a circa $80,000 pay­out for be­ing en­gaged in po­ten­tially crim­i­nal be­hav­iour.

In the mean­time, the gov­ern­ment will be happy to use Bar­clay’s tainted vote in Par­lia­ment to help pass its leg­isla­tive agenda.

English hardly cov­ered him­self in glory, ei­ther. His claim that he had made a state­ment last year to the po­lice (kept un­der wraps) and to the elec­torate chair­man Stu­art Davie (in a pri­vate email) has still left a gap­ing hole in the pic­ture.

Ar­guably, as Greens leader James Shaw has said, English owes the pub­lic an apol­ogy for what – to use the lan­guage of Catholic the­ol­ogy – amounted to a sin of omis­sion. The sin wasn’t in what he did about Bar­clay, but what he failed to do.

The po­lice be­long in the same con­fes­sional. By choos­ing not to pros­e­cute Bar­clay and de­clin­ing to pur­sue the mat­ter af­ter he re­fused to co-op­er­ate with them, the po­lice left them­selves look­ing

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