Dom Post on Erin Leigh

The Dom Post has two good items on the Erin Leigh affair. A blog post written before the Environment Ministry apologised, and an article this morning. First the blog by Dom Post Political Editor Tracy Watkins:

It is easy for those of us who have been here a while to forget just how brutal the political arena can be. Which may explain why Trevor Mallard thought it was okay to set out to destroy the career of a young woman who previously worked at the Environment Ministry and who blew the whistle on alleged political meddling.

… there is a serious imbalance here. Mallard is a minister of the state with huge powers at his disposal to investigate and rebut the allegations made by Leigh. Leigh, on the other hand, has few such resources at her disposal -she is just a young woman, whose most important asset is a career and a professional reputation on which she relies for her livelihood.

… Mallard’s sole intention can only have been to leave Leigh’s reputation and credibility in tatters. How else could you justify labelling someone incompetent and sad? Previous employers have rebutted Mallard claims, defending Leigh as a great worker. But it shouldn’t matter. Maybe she was right; maybe she was wrong. The trick with power sometimes is knowing when to just turn the other cheek.Prime Minister Helen Clark passed up the opportunity yesterday to say sorry to Leigh, defending Mallard’s attack as “mild by his standards”.

Mild by a politician’s standards, maybe – but for a young woman like Leigh, far more brutal than anything she is capable of dishing up.

Even worse, was the PM laughing about it. The sisterhood only extends so far.

Then we have today’s article by Martin Kay. Note the harsh (but justified) language used by the Dom Post, describing what Mallard did as smearing:

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard will not apologise for smearing former ministry worker Erin Leigh after he misread advice about her performance.

Mr Mallard said yesterday he would not say sorry after he used parliamentary privilege to wrongly brand Ms Leigh as incompetent – despite Environment Ministry boss Hugh Logan saying that a briefing on her work was not meant to reflect poorly on her.

This is a classic example of third termitis. Of course Mallard should apologise, but the Government is at the stage where it is obsessed with proving itself “right” on an issue, rather than simply apologising.

UPDATE: Also read John Armstrong on this topic:

So why not say you’re sorry, Mr Mallard? The Minister for the Environment should have issued a unqualified apology for wrongly maligning whistle-blower Erin Leigh the instant he was given the highly embarrassing news yesterday that his questioning of her competence had been based on inappropriate advice from his ministry.

Mr Mallard should have apologised to set the record straight in Parliament and avoid a potential breach of privilege case. He should have done so to silence the National Party. And he should have done so for his own sake.

That he has not done so – and that his Beehive colleagues are not insisting he do so – suggests he and they have lost grip of their senses.

… Mr Logan might be on the way out. Mr Mallard might go the same way if he is not careful.

As a minimum, he needs to set the record straight in Parliament. He did so when previously supplied with wrong information. What is so different this time?

His unwillingness to say “sorry” may reflect advice that he concede nothing in case Ms Leigh seeks damages for defamation. But the ministry has already admitted fault by saying the briefing note could be interpreted in an adverse way.

Mr Mallard might be looking for a way out of politics. That analysis might be completely wrong. But his behaviour has more than a touch of the political death-wish about it – his refusal to apologise seemingly just another example of that syndrome.

If Trevor has a political death-wish, who are we to stop him?

Comments (59)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment