Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Standards of accountability

The big news this morning is that Labour MP Darren Hughes is being investigated by police over unstated allegations involving an 18-year-old Labour activist. So far everyone is being very careful; Hughes is on leave (having named himself to prevent other Labour MPs from being unfairly suspected), and people are repeating the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" as if its the Litany Against Fear. The implication: if the police conclude that no charges will be laid, then everything goes back to normal.

The problem is that this isn't just a criminal matter. There's also a political standard of accountability in play here. And under that standard, Hughes may already be finished. We don't know what he's alleged to have done yet, and hopefully it isn't anything too bad. But if the allegations are anything like those made against Richard Worth, then he should be resigning from Parliament. Because even if they are subsequently disproven, there will likely have been sufficiently dubious behaviour that people will not want the smell of it in their caucus room, or on their ballot paper.