Wednesday, August 10, 2022

It's not just Sam Uffindell who's on trial here

Some more thoughts on the Sam Uffindell saga:

■ The tyro Tauranga MP front-footed the media yesterday about his boarding school transgression (he was reportedly ordered to by his boss) and came across as sincere and contrite. But in the meantime another depth charge has gone off with the claim by a former student flatmate that she fled their Dunedin flat in fear – through a window, in fact – because of Uffindell’s menacing behaviour. What else might be lurking in his past and waiting to be disclosed?

■ Christopher Luxon has acted decisively in standing Uffindell down, but the damage is done. Will this be one of the shortest parliamentary tenures in New Zealand history? And how will the voters of Tauranga react if they’re subjected to another by-election so soon after the last one? Will they punish National by transferring their support to the ACT candidate, who commendably used a chance to come clean about past mistakes by revealing a teenage drink-drive conviction while Uffindell chose to “confess” a much blander (and politically self-serving) failing – namely, not bringing his family home to New Zealand earlier. (I like David Farrar’s suggestion, reported here by Bryce Edwards, that Uffindell could have seized the opportunity to make an impressive speech about lessons learned from his past, particularly in regard to bullying.)

■ National’s culture and processes are as much on trial as Uffindell. Now the collateral damage has spread to senior MP Todd McLay, who’s accused of knowing about the King’s College incident but inexplicably failing to tell Luxon or deputy leader Nicola Willis. Former party president Peter Goodfellow is also implicated (surprise!), raising further questions about why Goodfellow was allowed to remain in a position of power – he’s still on the party board – when so many egregiously wrong-headed selection decisions were made on his watch.

■ The media love indulging in schadenfreude, or pleasure in others’ misfortunes, and never more so than when the politician whose feet are being held to the fire is a conservative. But journalists and interviewers need to mind their own behaviour. Guyon Espiner should be ashamed of his show-offy tough-guy questioning of Luxon on Morning Report today. (“Yeah no, mate – we’re not going to go through all that, mate”, Espiner said, cutting off Luxon in mid-sentence. His point was fair enough; he wasn’t going to allow the interview to be taken over by talking points prepared by National media advisers. But it was the arrogant, smart-arse way Espiner did it that grated. “Mate”, as a form of address, can be friendly or it can be used as an aggressively macho challenge more appropriate to a public bar argument. In this case it was the latter.) And bearing in mind that the whole Uffindell scandal is largely about being transparent, how about some transparency from RNZ?  On First Up, Nick Truebridge interviewed Shane Te Pou for more than six minutes about the Uffindell furore without disclosing that Te Pou – who admittedly is an astute and perceptive commentator – is a former Labour Party activist, and therefore not to be regarded as a neutral observer. It shouldn't be assumed that RNZ's listeners knew that; they were entitled to be told. Or does RNZ assume its audience takes it as a given that its commentators lean to the left unless explicitly stated otherwise?

Correction: In the original version of this post I said the candidates in the Tauranga by-election revealed their greatest regrets in a candidates' debate. In fact it was in response to questions from the Bay of Plenty Times.





Brendan McNeill said...

Bad enough to be a bully, unforgivable to be bland.

pdm said...

Karl I cannot help get the feeling that Uffindell is being hung out to dry here by National and that maybe - and it is pure speculation - that the second claim is a political hit job.

If my gut feeling is right then who is next.

The second accuser needs to be at least interviewed if not named to allay this speculation.

Even the initial bullying has a `double jeopardy' feeling to it - expulsion from a school such as Kings is definitely not something that goes away completely as evidenced by this exposure.

Max Ritchie said...

Nothing “former” about Shane Te Pou’s Labour activism.

Richard said...

Meanwhile, the Orange setting is extended for a few more weeks, Three Strikes legislation has been voted down while ram raids and gun climb escalate, Three Waters is being forced through with minimum time for public submissions, and our Govt debt clicks over $137.1B.
But hey, all eyes on the Tauranga MP.

Trev1 said...

Yes Richard, Labour's little diversion is working just as intended thanks to the bought and paid for media and a gullible public. I wonder how .any other Opposition MPs they have a dossier on, marked "release in case of emergency ". A word to the wise, take particularly good care of relations with former flatmates.

hughvane said...

Well said, Richard.

Is this Uffindell affair a very deliberate M**kS**tMedia hatchet job, a storm in a sheep dip, a foaming nothing-burger, selective morality and self-righteousness?

Karl has presented a balanced view (this time) about attacks on Conservatism, NZ style, but I reiterate what I said following his previous outing, that our principal focus has to be on exposing and destroying the machinations of this present Labour Govt.

Trev1 said...

Ardern has relied on a powerful bully to protect her in Parliament for the past 5 years. Now she has rewarded him with a sinecure in Dublin. The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

Scott said...

I'm just not seeing things your way on this issue Karl. I think Uffindell has been badly treated by the media. What you did at age 16 is normally not held against you over 20 years later? Even the University situation would normally be overlooked. How many of us would welcome scrutiny over what we did at high school and university, particularly focusing on our worst moments? Ideally there would be Christian forgiveness in these situations.

However I most disagree with your adherence to identity politics. That he is a successful white man should not be held against him. I realise the ideal candidate on the left side of the spectrum is a Maori woman, preferably a lesbian, especially preferably with a moko and especially especially preferably with a disability. However those on the sensible centre-right are comfortable with successful people, many of whom will be white men, running for office. We should not worship at the woke altar of diversity.

As it is we will get no credit from the left anyway. They are our opponents and they want to destroy us. Look at an authentic indigenous leader who has thousands of followers, who helps the poor, who has gone to jail while speaking out for freedom in this country. Does he get respect from the media and the liberal elite? Heck no! They hate Brian Tamaki. If he was on the left side of the political spectrum they would love him.

So we should not take much account of diversity and identity politics. It is a fools errand. We get no credit for it from the left. And it means that it distracts us from the important task of choosing candidates on merit. Merit should be the only criteria. Not diversity, not identity politics, merit.

Anonymous said...

As an aside I would love have seen Espiner try that "Mate" nonsense on Winston Peters.

Trev1 said...

The evidence from Twitter is that Labour (and Newshub) were tipped off at least two months ago by a supporter to questions about Uffindell's student past:

"Replying to

Well someone needs to ask Sam about his kings college days and why he was asked to leave. Let's just day he won't be able to bully the gangs.
9:33 PM · Jun 9, 2022·Twitter for Android."

So they waited until bad news like the Auditor-General's damning report on 3 Waters to deploy it. The public is being manipulated by a dirty tricks campaign.

Karl du Fresne said...

No one who follows this blog could be in any doubt about how I feel regarding the pernicious cult of identity politics. However in a democratic society, mainstream political parties should make some attempt to reflect a broad cross-section of society, both for pragmatic reasons and as a matter of principle. No one looking at National's recent selection history could fail to see that it displays a fatal attraction to candidates of a certain type - young, white, male, prosperous, entitled and privileged. Toby Manhire of The Spinoff has called them identikit candidates and for probably the only time in my life, I had to agree with him.

Gary Peters said...

As I said on your previous comment on this sorry saga, I was sure Tania Tapsell would have been put forward but I was wrong.

The problem with "diversity" hires is that generally the credentials get overlooked in favour of the flavour.

We have diversity entrance into restricted courses at university, diversity hires as a prerequisite in the public service so why do have to have it in politics. Look what diversity selection has thrown up in the labour caucus. Idiots.

pdm said...

Karl - I tend to agree with Gary Peters.

Ability, experience outside of the beltway etc outdoes diversity any day. As Gary said look at the current Labour Caucus and the Greens Caucus for that matter.

Eamon Sloan said...

There are oodles of things to unpick here. There is certainly a political power game in play – as in a one two punch. Firstly exposure of the school bullying episode followed up a day or so later by the Dunedin flatting incident. Over the years we must all have noticed that political type scandals are managed on the drip-feed system. Maybe there is more to come.

I feel the best course for National is to allow Uffindell to absorb the pressure in the meantime and prepare to close the book by making a personal statement to the house. Personal statements to the house are accepted and generally not debated in any way.

For interest sake the House rules are here:

Karl mentioned two names I have to say are also on my dislike list.

A few years back I had an email exchange with Toby Manhire. The exchange might have had an amicable quality to begin with but he went rogue without warning. On the nasty scale I would rate him close to a ten.

A Listener article written by Guyon Espiner sticks in my mind. In it he proudly boasted that his specialty was in “pissing people off”. From memory he was interviewing some visiting American State Department official.

Zoroforever said...

Doesn't Uffindale perfectly fit the electorate of Tauranga?

Max Ritchie said...

Nonsense, Zoro. If he was typical of my city he’d be 70, slightly overweight and a follower of Man City.