I think the Herald editorial today nails it:
John Key is not the first Prime Minister to sack a Cabinet member for conduct unbecoming a minister. Helen Clark, until her third term, made quite an art of it. Mr Key could learn from her. The art lies in an economy of words. When the deed is done the Prime Minister should explain the dismissal in terms that do not invite a prolonged discussion.
We should not have had this daily game of political ping-pong between Mr Key and his opposite, Phil Goff, over who knew what and when, about complaints from women who say they received the unwanted attentions of former Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth. There must be far more important matters on Mr Key’s plate, if not Mr Goff’s.
Agreed. Sometimes John’s propensity to be open and responsive can backfire on him. As the editorial says, an economy of words would be preferable to arguing over what time the phone call was – especially when you get it wrong.
It is a measure of Labour’s desperation for attention that its leader is making comment. Normally when something of this nature surfaces the rival party is content to keep out of it, calculating that it has nothing to gain and much to lose by taking cheap shots at a target that is fatally wounded.
In this case, Mr Goff sees an opportunity to besmirch Mr Key with the fact that the complaint on which the Prime Minister acted was not the first he had received. The first, from a woman in the Labour Party, had been relayed by Mr Goff a few weeks earlier. He says Mr Key did not bother to check it out.
Mr Goff said the woman had been offered public posts and there was email traffic to prove it. But when challenged to produce that evidence, Mr Goff had to admit he did not have it. Still, he thinks Mr Key should have asked for it.
Desperation for attention is the motive. And Goff has failed totally to front up with any evidence. The handful of texts in today’s Herald, are not grounds to sack an MP, especially as they are given without any context of all the texts both sent and received.
Then he tried to organise a meeting between the woman and Mr Key with himself present for her support. Mr Key agreed to it, though not with Mr Goff present, then decided the woman should talk to his chief of staff instead, and Mr Goff could be present. But Mr Goff advised the woman she should not accept anything less than a meeting with the Prime Minister.
And as I said yesterday, Goff’s career as a sexual harrassment counsellor is not going to be a long one.
Whether or not it comes to that, the political career of a once prominent Auckland lawyer, the long-time chairman of the firm Simpson Grierson, is plainly over. Mr Key says he will not have him back in his Cabinet regardless of the result of a police investigation of the complaint from a second woman. In that respect, he echoes the attitude of Helen Clark who held her ministers to higher standards of behaviour than those defined in criminal law.
Mind you, Helen did recycle those she sacked – even those who broke the law.
The Herald’s inquiries suggest the second complaint against Dr Worth are unlikely to result in charges. The complainant, a businesswoman in her 40s, is said to have accepted the minister’s hospitality in a Wellington hotel and had breakfast with him next morning.
If that is correct, that will be a huge relief to Dr Worth and his family. Losing your Ministerial job, or even your parliamentary job, is nothing compared to possibily losing your freedom.