Herald’s knives out for Goff’s team

by Jake Quinn

On Saturday, in the words of DimPost, the “New Zealand Herald falls to it’s knees and frantically bobs it’s head up and down to praise the government on it’s one year anniversary – because after all, lavishing praise on politicians is what good journalism is all about”.

While Sunday was Labour’s turn to receive some unabashed praise of similar proportions.  Well, not quite.

In today’s Herald on Sunday Editorial, the knives for Barker’s scalp and possibly Hughes too, are well and truly out:

To outside observers, Barker always appeared to have been promoted far beyond his ability. But in politics’ smoke-filled backrooms, success is sometimes less about brilliance than about blind loyalty. And that, unfortunately, is where Labour’s senior whip Darren Hughes – another former minister – has also disgraced himself.

Hughes is smart. But, like Barker, he has been found willing to insist that black is white if that is what the leadership expects of him. Hughes has fronted the media, insisting that Barker’s fraudulent poll was justifiable, allowing leader Phil Goff to duck for cover.

Barker has acted dishonestly. Hughes has sacrificed principle for patsy-ism. Goff has just cowered and, when confronted by political reporters outside the Labour Caucus room with nowhere to hide, obfuscated.

Labour’s leader must now stand up and take responsibility for the deception that was conducted with funds entrusted to him by Parliament.  Barker should be sacked from all his Caucus responsibilities. Hughes, too, must be left in no doubt about how repugnant his rationalisations are.

These, then, are the simple truths that are demanded of Labour’s tarnished leadership. And these are the truths Labour has forgotten.

Sacking Rick Barker over this would be a public relations disaster, as would chastising and publicly humiliating Labour’s great-ginger-hope and Mr Fix-it, Hughes.  Bowing to petty pressure from scalp hungry journalists would surely push moral and the polls to new lows.

The media loves scalps; that is why they write these editorials.  No one outside of Wellington gives a stuff about this crap.

And frankly, using your parliamentary office to conduct opinion polls, fake names or not, doesn’t remotely compare to changing your financial arrangements to gain tens of thousands of extra dollars in housing allowances, as our pious Finance Minister did so recently.

The issue of course is more about the handling than the supposed ‘crime’ itself.  Barker’s words “i don’t know what you are talking about” were not well chosen.  However, within hours, after gathering the facts, Hughes was fronting.

This is not a hanging offence, and as Farrar points out, the quantity of bad press is probably the result of a rather quiet news week.

So Goff does need to come out swinging but not at his caucus.

Overseas travels have seen him slip from the public’s gaze of late, and now he’s back and having to fight fires he didnt light, and all at time when the Government is providing ample opportunity for him to land some swift jabs.

ACC cuts and levy increases, constant talk of new taxes and GST increases, an ETS that will see average hard-working kiwis hand big money over to big polluters and big business, all while unemployment sits at decade highs.  Oh and where is the cycleway and the ultra fast broadband?

As an after thought, I’m rather puzzled about Labour Party President Andrew Little’s role in fuelling this issue from the start.  The day it kicked off Little said he knew nothing about the operation and that it would concern him very deeply.

Andrew Little has a reputation from speaking his mind.  At Labour’s conference this year he announced, one can only assume unilaterally, that the Foreshore and Seabed Act was a failure, that Maori deserved their day in court, and that the Reserve Bank Act and monetary policy was on the next Labour government’s chopping block.

Why would he say “it would concern him very deeply”, thus fertilising the ground for a scandal, and why didn’t he call the Leader’s Office first to check it out?