For months, senior figures in Labour knew something stunk. A senior apparatchik was sexually harassing junior members at a camp. The Treasurer knew what was happening. At some point the former Party President Nigel Haworth was told. A guy who was working in the Prime Minister’s office was committing abuse. But when they had tried to call him out on it by going to the party leadership, it said #SeeYou.
For months it festered and simmered. The incident happened in February 2018. It was the second of two known incidents involving the complainant who was meant to have met the offender at a public office, but was convinced to go to his home.
Mr Haworth and other senior figures were told at the time. But for a year they sat on it. Even when another round of allegations bubbled up around the Young Labour youth camp, and a lawyer was detailed to deal with the allegations, nothing happened. It was not until 2019 that an investigation was launched. The report from the lawyer was released without input from the complainant despite increasingly panicked messages being sent.
And when they asked to see the report and get legal representation, Mr Haworth said that was not necessary. Imagine that. Shutting down a sexual abuse allegation in the age of #MeToo because ones own career is more important than the well being of a young lady whose life has been turned upside down.
The stark reality is, that a party claiming to be big on a better world for sexual abuse victims, has no honest plan for a festering gash that is becoming infected and will need some solid work done. Labour Party President Nigel Haworth might have gone, but it is obvious that he did not tell Ms Ardern the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or that if he had, someone in her office failed to tell her everything.
From a party that campaigned heavily on a fairer, more just place for women in the world, whose leader stood before the United Nations and talked about #MeToo the difference in the message received in New Zealand was stark. Somehow the talk about #MeToo becoming #WeToo did not get to the highest elections of the external Labour leadership, but it seems that #SeeYou – basically telling the complainants to get lost – did. Youngsters who had every reason in the world to believe that camp that they were at would be a great one, good campaigning from old hands would be taught and everyone would have a great time, found out that Labour is not the cuddly bear it is made out to be.
This is a scandal that could sink Labour at the next election if the Prime Minister does not come clean on what happened and why and demand immediate 100% transparency. This is a scandal that could make this Labour Government the first 1-term wonder since the 1-term wonder that was Norman Kirk/Bill Rowling. National and Simon Bridges would love that prospect, but I am not sure that the rest of New Zealand would.