DBP Comments

A roundup of comment on the DBP affair.

The Dominion Post on Saturday said:

A conversation during which Mr Benson-Pope told Mr Logan he would “likely be less free and frank” in the presence of the ministry’s new communications head was misconstrued as, well, an indication he would “likely be less free and frank” in her presence.

This is all terribly unfair on Mr Benson-Pope, whose reputation has further been tarnished by mean-spirited nitpickers reminding him that when he was first asked if he or his office had played a part in Ms Setchell’s departure, he said: “No, I don’t know anything about the detail of that issue.”

So how is it that Ms Setchell got the push? The obvious answer is that politicians speak a different version of English. When Mr Benson-Pope said he didn’t know anything about the detail of the case it was assumed he was blissfully unaware of what had taken place. But what he actually meant was that he didn’t know how much compensation Ms Setchell was paid, what the weather was like on the day of her departure and what colour tie Mr Logan was wearing at the time.

The same day the NZ Herald says:

Mr Benson-Pope is departing because he seems to be congenitally incapable of “free and frank” explanations when he is cornered.

It is sad that at least one member of this Government and his political adviser do not credit people with professionalism. They are creatures, probably, of their own partisanship. That is not a sackable offence though perhaps it should be.

The country is better off without ministers and staff whose political instincts are so tribal they cannot trust anyone who consorts with the other side.

And finally the Press, also on Saturday, said:

David Benson-Pope is gone from the Cabinet, at last. He should have been sacked long ago.

The episode that finally finished him this week has all the elements which have combined to become his political trademark in the past few years: slipperiness, bluster, economy with the truth, weasel words, an inability to separate low political intrigue from the standards demanded of a Cabinet minister, and an uncanny knack for turning trifling matters into debacles.

That Benson-Pope has survived this long is an indictment in itself and Helen Clark’s Government deserves to be squirming as the Prime Minister finally confronted the necessary business at hand.

The loss of an unpopular, underachieving Cabinet minister will not be a deadly blow to Labour. The party’s problem lies in what his performance represents, the perception it feeds of a Government laden with dead wood, uncertain how to proceed, stung into life only by internal crisis, and entirely reliant on Clark to drag it up when it stumbles.

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