Ralston on dirty tricks

Bill Ralston writes:

He may have resigned but Richard Worth is not the only victim in this debacle. When you play in the muck you will get dirt on you. It’s a lesson Phil Goff forgot last week and it must take the gloss off the Mt Albert by-election result.

Goff made the mistake of personally championing Choudary’s allegations, and making it all about him.

It is obvious that Goff’s office first leaked the rumour to the Press Gallery that Labour had already warned Key of allegations of sexual harassment by Worth of another woman, who we now know is Neelam Choudary.

Leaving the Korean woman’s allegations to one side, it is also now apparent that the Choudary affair was largely a Labour set-up.

Personally I don’t think Goff was part of the set up. I think the most likely explanation is it was a group of Auckland activists. They took teh stuff to Goff and at first he did not think there was enough to attack Worth on – so instead he just sent it privately to Key. When Key’s COS came back and said he denies it but has been wanred, Goff was happy to leave it there as he probably himself doubted it all stacked up.

But then when Worth was dismissed as a Minister, Goff could not resist the chance to get it out there, so they leaked its existence. And at first it worked, until it became apparent how little proof there was, and that the picture drawn of the complainant was so misleading.  Goff should trusted his initial instincts to not go public with it.

Finally, however, thanks to the efforts of some bloggers and journalists in the gallery, more ugly facts emerged. Goff had sought to keep her name secret. For good reason. It soon became apparent Choudary was not just an ordinary low-level member of the Labour Party, she had tried to become a Labour MP last year.

By offering herself to the bear pit of Parliament she plainly demonstrated she was no shrinking violet incapable of fending off the blandishments of an aged Government minister.

Indeed. Tracy Watkins in the Dom Post sums it up best:

Meanwhile Mr Goff milked the woman’s status as an immigrant who was confused and distraught at Dr Worth’s intentions. When first asked by The Dominon Post if he knew the woman before she came to him, Mr Goff agreed he had, but only for a short time. By the next day, he had put it out there that she was a Labour Party member. When she was revealed this week as Auckland woman Neelam Choudary, it became clear she was no low-level member. She is prominent in Auckland Labour Party circles. The image of a frightened and traumatised woman doesn’t square with the recollections of reporters who came across her regularly on the campaign trail with Helen Clark.

Nor does it square with some of Mr Goff’s colleagues. The woman described as “strikingly beautiful” by Mr Goff is forthright and supremely confident, according to some. Her husband was convicted of an immigration scam.

It is interesting that Goff’s colleagues are quoted on this. Some of them are not too pleased I dare say on the handling of this.

Back to Ralston:

From the beginning, when she first received approaches from Worth, she had kept Goff in the loop. The Labour leader even endorsed the idea she should meet Worth.

We also found out that Choudary had been active on the ground in David Shearer’s by-election campaign in Mt Albert. Hence the inevitable conclusion Worth and the Government were clearly being set up by the Labour Party.

We’re still yet to hear why Choudary was seen having coffee with Worth a month after she alleges the texts and phone calls stopped.

I now find it impossible to give her and Goff’s allegations any credibility. She has insisted Key keep secret the content of the texts that Worth supposedly sent her, so she has made it impossible for the public to verify her claims. Certainly on the basis of the few innocuous texts released so far there is no evidence of any sexual propositions or harassment.

From what we’ve seen so far in the Choudary affair, Worth is guilty, at worst, of being a silly old fool.

No one has come out of this business with their reputation enhanced by what now must be seen as a Labour Party dirty trick.

Goff has ducked for cover, after a couple of weeks of drip-feeding juicy tidbits to the media and taking the moral high ground. That can only be seen as an admission he was wrong.

Yes when Goff won’t front up to media, you know things have gone wrong.

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