Wednesday, June 02, 2021

We should not tolerate parties which tolerate this

In the wake of National MP Nick Smith's resignation on Monday night, people have finally been talking about what a scumbag he was. Newshub reports that his behaviour was an open secret around Parliament, something everyone knew about but no-one talked about, with people saying (anonymously, for fear of repurcussions):

  • "Smith was notorious for that red mist"
  • "One of the most difficult assholes I've ever worked for"
  • "I have no fond memories of that guy"
  • "He was prone to bouts of extreme verbal anger towards other ministers and staff. It was out of the ordinary even then. But we didn't complain because we were Gen Xers. We should have"
Meanwhile Stuff reports that the complaint which led to his resignation was not lodged by his immediate victim, but by "another National Party staffer who recorded the incident and made a complaint". Which suggests that Smith's behaviour was so toxic that his own staff were habitually recording him to document it. Which raises the obvious question: why do parties put up with this? Because as Smith shows, abusive MPs are a PR bomb waiting to go off, and when they do it damages both the party (who are rightly suspected of covering up and/or condoning abuse) and our political system as a whole. They're simply bad politics. So why not downlist, de-select, or otherwise show them the door to remove the risk?

Sadly, the answer seems to be that the main parties are staffed by bullies and run by bullies. Judith Collins is out there this morning defending Smith, saying he was under "tremendous stress" and suggesting that recording his outburst was illegal (which is getting pretty DARVO). But then, she's a bully herself. As for Labour, Meka Whaitiri (who allegedly assaulted a staff member) is not just still in Parliament, but has been reappointed to Cabinet. So Labour supports bullying as well. Voters should not. And we should make that clear at the ballot box.