Defending Darren Hughes may well be a fruitless task. But here's an attempt to do so ...

First things first - I have no special knowledge of the events surrounding Darren Hughes' leave of absence from the House beyond what I've read in the media. And while I have met him on one or two occasions, at which he presented as a perfectly pleasant guy, I couldn't even claim acquaintance status with him.

But that said, I'm not exactly sure why the situation he finds himself in is so widely believed to raise "questions about whether Hughes' political career can survive the controversy."

Of course, if Hughes is charged and found guilty of committing an offence, sexual or otherwise, then I can see he would be (and undoubtedly should be) toast. It may even be that if charges are laid and a trial held at which Hughes is acquitted, the evidence presented still indicates behaviour that makes it more likely than not wrongdoing took place (while not proving beyond reasonable doubt that an offence was committed).

But that won't necessarily happen - and Mr Hughes appears adamant it won't. So it is just as possible that what we have here is a bad case of mixed-messages, or misread signals, or even confused sexuality resulting in a sudden change of mind. The point is, we just don't know what happened between Mr Hughes' and the complainant at that late hour. And until we do know more, any rush to judgment on the issue is not just premature, but unreasonable.

However, let's speculate that, after investigating this, the police conclude that there's insufficient evidence that any offence took place and that whatever occurred between the two parties was (at worst) a misunderstanding over why they each were at the house together at that time of the night. Even bloggers you might expect to be somewhat sympathetic to Hughes - see here, and here - still seem to think that his resignation will be required even on this "best case" scenario (and that's without going into the right-of-center blogs!).

I'm not so sure. On this set of facts (which I acknowledge are entirely as speculative as are claims that a criminal act definitely took place), what exactly is the wrong that demands the remedy of resignation?

Well, you might say, 18-year-olds are vulnerable to predation, and so any older man (and woman?) who seeks to have some sexual contact with a person of this age is taking advantage of that fact. Of course, even if this were true in the general case, it doesn't prove it in the particular - there exist 18-year-olds who are entirely secure in their sexuality and their choices around how to exercise it, while there are plenty of 30-somethings (and beyond) who haven't learned a thing from past experiences. And if it is true in the general case that 18-year-olds are vulnerable to predation, what does the age of the person engaging in sexual activity with them matter? Wouldn't a 21-year-old be equally guilty of "taking advantage" as is a 32-year-old? Or should we rework our consent laws to make the "half-age-plus-7" rule binding in some way?

Ah! But it isn't just Mr Hughes' age that matters here. He occupies a position of power, which means any relationship (or attempted relationship) with a significantly younger person is inherently suspect. And, you may argue, it's his abuse of that power that is the real issue here.

It seems to me we need to be careful what we mean by "a position of power" in this case. Sure, if it turns out Mr Hughes expressly (or even impliedly) promised something to the complainant - "I can help you move up in the Party, you know" - then obviously he's toast. But let's again assume nothing of this sort was said. What does it matter that Mr Hughes role as an MP imbued him with "power" vis a vis the complainant?

Sure, power is an aphrodisiac of sorts to some folk - being an MP with some status in Labour makes Mr Hughes more sexually attractive to some people than he otherwise would be. But so what? Having large breasts make some women more sexually attractive to some people than they otherwise would be. Being picked to play sport for New Zealand make some people more sexually attractive to some other people than they otherwise would be. Etc, etc.

The point is that people want to fuck other people for all sorts of reasons. So to say "Mr Hughes abused his power as an MP" seems to me to beg the question ... where is the abuse of power here? Or, are we going to have a rule that says "MPs only can try to score people who do not know that they are MPs, in case they get starry eyed and do things for the wrong reasons"? But what is the right reason for wanting to engage in sexual contact with a person - aside, of course, from true love and a desire to spend the rest of one's life as the other's true soulmate ... ?

Well, what about the fact Mr Hughes [was] the Labour Party's spokesperson on [Tertiary] Education? And that the incident took place following a debate at the Vic Uni campus? And that the complainant is a student? Surely this creates some form of conflict between his official role and his actions?

No, it doesn't. [...] The event was a comedy debate, not an official party-political one. But more importantly, what exactly are we saying about the limits Mr Hughes' role as spokesperson (not even Minister) on Tertiary Education put on his private life? Can he not have a relationship with a lecturer? Can he not date anyone who has a child at a University? Or is just people who currently are at University that are off-limits?

I guess I can summarise the above by saying that the ethics of this just doesn't seem all that clear to me. I mean, even my institution, the University of Otago, does not absolutely prohibit staff-student relationships - it merely "strongly discourages" them (whatever that means!) on the basis that such relationships "risk taking advantage of the intrinsic trust, power and status differential implicit in the staff-to-student relationship". So if a University recognises that it's not absolutely wrong for a lecturer to sleep with an undergraduate, but that context matters, I'm loathe to say that it's clearly wrong for an MP to try to do likewise.

Which brings us back to the question of "power" - is the mere fact that Mr Hughes is an MP and the complainant (reportedly) a young party member enough to say that making a pass (or whatever happened) was clearly wrong? Why? Because the complainant just couldn't say "no" to anything? Because the complainant just couldn't know what he or she really wanted? Those seem to me to be specific conclusions on particular facts, rather than general truths that apply in every case. And without really knowing the facts, no conclusion can really be drawn yet.

But perhaps it isn't an ethical issue at all. Perhaps it's a moral one. Maybe Mr Hughes sin (I use that word deliberately) was to put himself in a compromising position with a younger man, an act that reveals a default in character that makes him unfit to be an MP at all.

If you believe that then there isn't much I can say to change your mind. But I just don't buy it. Quite frankly, I don't really care who an MP wants to have sex with - it's not an issue that I think has any bearing whatsoever on their ability to do their job.

Of course, having laid down such a strong line, I'll now qualify it. The sex life of a politician who publicly preaches morality is fair game on the basis of hypocrisy - just as any gap between public utterances and private behaviour is. And obviously criminal behaviour, or actual misuse of office, with regards an MP's private life is a relevant matter.

(That, to me, potentially separates Mr Hughes' case from Richard Worth's. Even given that we don't know exactly why Mr Worth was driven out of National, there were sufficient allegations of not only criminal activity but also repeated conflicts of interest to clearly justify tossing him from the boat. So it weren't the sleeping around that was the real problem there.)

But aside from that, I'm pretty much laissez faire when it comes to what (and who) MPs do in their private lives. I don't want to vote for a saint or a role model for my children. I want to vote for someone who will give me the sorts of policies I support and will make hard decisions in a way I can respect (and, ideally, also support).

But perhaps I'm an outlier. Perhaps the real problem Mr Hughes faces is the "optics" of his situation. Or, to put it another way, the wrong he has committed is purely political in nature.

For one thing, Mr Hughes should have known that certain members of the Labour Party are, how to put this, more likely than other MPs to have their behaviour scrutinised in the media. That in itself ought to have counseled a measure of prudence before drinking to the early hours and then asking someone back home without having ... reached a certain understanding as to what might follow thereafter.

(Note: I'm not claiming the only reason the media are all over this story is because of Mr Hughes' sexuality. I've no doubt this would be just as much a story if it were (say) Simon Bridges and a young lady involved. Rather, the media's past appetite for "news" regarding gay Labour MPs is a fact that such MPs need to be aware of when living their lives.)

Furthermore, as Labour's chief whip, Mr Hughes' is in the position of Caesar's wife. That's not just because he's got some public profile - it's also because his job inevitably creates enemies who will be happy to stick the boot in, if given the chance.

And finally, the way that this has been handled by Mr Hughes and his leaders has been downright abysmal. They should have front-footed the issue two weeks ago, "outing" the police investigation themselves and taking a leave of absence straight away. Trying to keep it under wraps, assumedly in the hope that once no charges are laid it will go away, was never going to work.

So Labour can spit and wail about "the Beehive" leaking this issue to the media, but really they brought the problem on themselves to some extent. Which is why focus has now turned to Phil Goff's decision making on this matter.

I guess what I'm fumbling towards is the conclusion that I'm not necessarily bothered by Mr Hughes' behaviour (provided, I reiterate, that no criminal wrongdoing is proven, at either the "beyond reasonable doubt" or "balance of probabilities" level). However, I have the bad feeling that his future may be decided not so much on the basis of "did he do wrong?", but on the basis of "did he do something that we think lots of other people else thinks might be wrong, even if we (and they) can't really say what it was, and perhaps it'd be safest just to cut him loose?"

Which isn't much of a defence, I know. But it's the best I can do ...

[Postscript: This is one of those topics where commentators may wish to exercise a degree of circumspection ... because if you don't, those of us with the power of editing will do it for you.]

Comments (47)

by Dave Guerin on March 24, 2011
Dave Guerin

Andrew, Grant Robertson is no longer the tertiary education spokesperson for Labour - that role passed to Darren at the last reshuffle. (and as of this afternoon it is with David Shearer)

by Iain Butler on March 24, 2011
Iain Butler

...the way that this has been handled by Mr Hughes and his leaders has been downright abysmal. They should have front-footed the issue two weeks ago...

That's what flabbergasts me. If Labour didn't think two earthquakes, a tsunami, a nuclear horro-show and a new Middle East war provided enough cover for front footing this issue, what were they waiting for?

I can only assume they had initmate knowledge of an event so apocolyptic that it would blow everything else off not just the front pages, but the next 23 as well.

Or they were waiting for the royal wedding...

by Andrew Geddis on March 24, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Dave,
Thanks for the correction - I should have known that. Will amend accordingly ...

by Ian MacKay on March 24, 2011
Ian MacKay

The whole issue just seems sad to me. That an intelligent enthusiastic young man can be pilloried and condemned for a single mistake says a lot about our society. (Assuming of course that no criminal act was committed.) The way that we examine every little word said by our elected MPs probably cause them to become very cautious, and colourless. (Hey. Maybe Winston probably injects colour and thus appeal?)

by Matthew Percival on March 24, 2011
Matthew Percival

It's poor form that Goff has known about it for two weeks yet only does something when the incident is widely reported in the media. You are 100% right - they should have front footed the issue two weeks ago. "A complaint has been made, Mr Hughes is co-operating with Police and any action is pending the outcome of the complaint" That's all they needed to say.

Innocent till proven guilty doesn't seem to apply to those in the public eye. Just ask those players in the NRL Rugby League who have been at the center of allegations. In particular Manly fullback Brett Stewart who was on the outer all of last season on the back of a complaint (which he was cleared of).

The process sets a dangerous precedent. Anyone could sabotage a politicians career by making a complaint if you're going to stand people down or have them resign on the back of a complaint.

by Rob Hosking on March 24, 2011
Rob Hosking

Perhaps I'm just a bit old fashioned but I think any MP out on the piss at 2am with a bunch of university students is at best suffering from a bad case of arrested development and that kind of disqualifies them from a position of responsiblity until they get themselves together.

And yeah, Labour's top team knew about this two weeks ago and even if they decided to keep schtumm you'd expect an "OK, if this does get out, here's what we do" session.  But they don't seem to have had any contingency plan at all.

 

by Maia on March 24, 2011
Maia

<blockquote>However, let's speculate that, after investigating this, the police conclude that there's insufficient evidence that any offence took place and that whatever occurred between the two parties was (at worst) a misunderstanding over why they each were at the house together at that time of the night.</blockquote>

I think you run together two incompatible hypothetical findings.  The police could very easily find that there is insufficient evidence that any offence took place - but that is not the same as, and in fact contradictory to, a positive finding of circumstances - which is what the second part of your statement implies.

You ignore the fact that the police are investigating and so presumably have some evidence that a crime may have taken place (and enough to convince a judge to get a court order).  In this circumstance the most likely evidence is the complainant describing criminal activity.

This builds the entire post on a false foundation.  There are three broad possibilities - that the police charge Hughes, that they don't charge Hughes but say there's insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions, or they come out and say that they've found some evidence that contradict the complainants statement, or that his statement has changed/was untrue and there's no crime.

They're unlikely to be able to say "There's insufficient evidence about what happened AND nothing criminal took place."

If the police find that nothing criminal took place, then I think what you say follows.

But if they only find that there's not enough evidence, then I think the situation is much more complicated than you allow.

by Hamish Stewart on March 24, 2011
Hamish Stewart

Andrew, I largely agree with what you have said but I think there is a judgement issue here, you touch on it when you raise the ethics argument. Hughes has regardless of the eventual outcome shown very poor judgement in his actions.

From memory it was Not PC who pointed out Edwin Edward's comment about the only way he could lose the election was to be " ..caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy ".

I hate to say it but it might well be Hughes has put the Labour Party in that position.

by Tom Gould on March 24, 2011
Tom Gould

It was a little difficult to take seeing those who tell the nation every evening what to believe about politics up on their high horses pontificating over the perils of using celebrity to take advantage of impressionable, drunk young people for personal gratification.

by stuart munro on March 24, 2011
stuart munro

The half age plus seven looks about right - but we don't have to legislate it - reasonably discriminating persons don't on the whole pick up drunken students half their age with any frequency.

Hughes is almost certainly toast however. Whatever happened between him and the student was evidently sufficiently troubling that they chose to involve the police - hardly the typical path to happy and stable domesticity.

Labour's handling - hard to say - until the facts come in.

by Chris Webster on March 24, 2011
Chris Webster

Andrew:
elegant and compassionate

but could this seen / interpreted as a pre-sentencing report?

 

by Gotham on March 24, 2011
Gotham

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in any of the blogs on this subject - and I have been rumourwhoring so have read the lot - is the future career prospects for the alleged victim.

We are all focusing on Darren Hughes...poor man...nah he deserved it....gonna kill his career...nah he can bounce back.... But it is reported that this young man was a Youth MP last year. He was interested enough to attend a political fundraiser and spend most of the night hanging out with politicians. If he was intending to enter politics, which may well have been the case, I wonder whether finding himself the possible victim of a high profile abuse claim will end any chance he has of entering parliament (assuming this is what he wants - though possibly transferrable to any political, media or advisory career as well). I am assuming (again) this might have weighed heavily on him and his decision to come forward.

Sometimes, just sometimes, events have lasting impacts on the victim too.

by Tim Watkin on March 24, 2011
Tim Watkin

Gotham, well said. It's easy to overlook what we don't know.

Andrew, I've tried today to imagine the meetings Goff had on this and the advice given. There must be a legal consideration that I'm not seeing... or, as Iain says, they know it's all indefensible (which seems unlikely, and if so it still seems better to go down on the front foot, rather than in the muddle of reaction and contradiction)... or they are utterly convinced that there's not a thing in it... or they were so blinded by personal loyalty that they forgot their duty of stewardship to the party.

In truth, there must be something else, otherwise I don't get how such a bad decision was made.

The abuse of power question remains of interest, I think. What if Steven Joyce was simply found in bed with a roading contractor? No, Hughes isn't a minister, but if you're trying to look like a government-in-waiting, the same rules apply.

On the other hand, just because someone drives on the road wouldn't make them an unethical bedfellow for Joyce (who I'm using as a convenient hypothetical, of course, nothing more).

Just all very sad, really.

by Eleanor Black on March 24, 2011
Eleanor Black

And thanks for keeping on the right side of both taste and the law in this thread, thus far.

by Mr Magoo on March 25, 2011
Mr Magoo

"What if Steven Joyce was simply found in bed with a roading contractor?"

The entire National party are in bed with the roading contractors. It is a veritable orgy.

Sorry, this thread was lacking sacasim and I could not let it go.

So far I have not seen this issue thumped harder than had it been a girl. Would it be too much to hope that our little backwater is a little more tolerant of same sex issues?

I am too cynical to ever go that far, but food for thought?

by stationary motion on March 25, 2011
stationary motion

I find it questionable the level of coverage in the media, specifically the NZH, given that there has been no allegations of substance, except what we can infer from Hughes going home with an 18 yo male, and the police taking away 'items of interest' from the residence (consensual sex got out of hand once objects were involved?).

Potentially NZH are sitting on some pretty hard evidence they can't disclose, but to me it seems a bit strange to be reading a large amount of coverage of 'that fateful night' when there is yet no outcome to the police investigation.

If it turns out to be a case of 'last-night remorse' playing itself out in the public arena I would be pretty incensed by the coverage.

by Andrew Geddis on March 25, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Stationary Motion: From what I've picked up around the traps (which admittedly doesn't involve much more than following various comment threads on other sites), various journalists have seen details of the complaint.

Maia: Agreed that a decision not to press any charges does not necessarily mean "nothing much happened - and certainly nothing criminal" ... it may be that the police simply consider there isn't enough evidence to justify charges (in that there is a low probability of a conviction being obtained). However, I suspect that if this comes down to a "he said"/"he said" situation with nothing much to back one side over the other, the police will err on the side of bringing matters before a court. In part, that's because of a general awareness that such allegations have not been taken seriously enough in the past, and in part it's because the police will be desirous of avoiding "cover up" allegations. Hence, I'd read a decision not to lay charges as weighing a bit more on the side of "nothing criminal happened" than on the side of "maybe something criminal happened, but there just isn't enough to say for sure".

Hamish: What sort of "bad judgment" are we talking about? Sure, an after the fact analysis indicates that the choices made that night were highly unwise. And I guess a "good politician" ought to avoid those sorts of unwise personal decisions, given the outcome we now see. But I suppose I'm a bit with Sue in her post - I think it's a shame that our standard of whether a politician is "good" at her/his job or not depends on their competence at these sorts of calls. Frankly, I'd rather they were judged on more relevant criteria.

by The Falcon on March 25, 2011
The Falcon

But I suppose I'm a bit with Sue in her post - I think it's a shame that our standard of whether a politician is "good" at her/his job or not depends on their competence at these sorts of calls. Frankly, I'd rather they were judged on more relevant criteria.

I agree, I also think it's a shame that the Greens' and Labour's selection policy is not whether the candidate is of the highest quality, but whether he/she is of the right gender/race/sexual orientation to fill their quotas.

by Andrew Geddis on March 25, 2011
Andrew Geddis

I agree, I also think it's a shame that the Greens' and Labour's selection policy is not whether the candidate is of the highest quality, but whether he/she is of the right gender/race/sexual orientation to fill their quotas.

Ummm ... Melissa Lee? Pansy Wong? Paula Bennett? Isn't there a fair argument that the desire to be "a broad tent" manifests across the political spectrum? And how exactly does the Green's alleged "quota based" selection policy manifest itself? This lineup doesn't exactly scream "engineered diversity" to me ...

But, you know - nice diversion from substance into petty political points scoring. Keep with what you're good at, I guess.

by Graeme Edgeler on March 25, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

And how exactly does the Green's alleged "quota based" selection policy manifest itself?

The "alleged" quota based selection process?

As a Professor of Law, specialising in electoral law, one would hope you'd be aware of the requirement that registered parties provide a copy of their list ranking rules to the Electoral Commission =)

The Green Party's list candidate selection rules are here (1MB .pdf).

As you will be able to see, there is a clear quota basis to them. At each list position, the Green Party list is required to be "balanced" or as close as possible to balanced.

The rules require that the top two positions are 1 male and 1 female; that the top 4 positions are 2 males and 2 females; that the top six positions are 3 males and 3 females; and that the top eight positions are 4 males and 4 females.

At least 1 of the top 10 must be Māori. At least 1 of the top 10 must be under 35. At least 1 of the top 3 must be a North Islander, and at least 2 of the top 5. At least 1 of the top 5 must be a South Islander.

by Andrew Geddis on March 26, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Ah, well, Graeme ... that's what happens when you actually research a point. But who has the time in this busy, busy world - aside from your good self, of course?!

I retract the "alleged" and apologise to the commatariat for rmisleading them. Fog of war, and all that ...

by Tim Watkin on March 26, 2011
Tim Watkin

And why doesn't the Greens quota demand a Stewart Islander in the top 20? Bloody island-ism, that's what it is. Pfff.

And why a requirement for someone under 35 and not one for someone over 65? Retirees never get a voice (except on Leighton Smith, of course).

by The Falcon on March 26, 2011
The Falcon

It would certainly be interesting to see who the Greens would choose if they had the choice of these two candidates:

1) A white man with a PhD from Oxford, who had invented several groundbreaking eco-technologies and also become internationally renowned for philanthropy.

2) A gay Maori woman from Greymouth with no qualifications or experience.

Probably number 2?

by Rich on March 26, 2011
Rich

To come back to the original article (what quite does the Green list selection policy have to do with it?).

I'd say Andrew is correct. The Labour party (and the progressive movement in general) has fought for legislation that entrenches sexual preference as a civil right. Consenting adults over 16 are entitled to have whatever form of relationship they choose.

I don't see how you can accept that and then say that certain lifestyles make one ineligible for public office.

 

by stuart munro on March 27, 2011
stuart munro

@ Rich,

The gap between legality and responsible behaviour is sometimes significant.

Alcoholism is, for example, perfectly legal in folk over 18. Nevertheless most people would prefer our leaders to be sober at least some of the time. We fondly imagine their decisions might be wise if made sober.

And we have similar beliefs about the responsible sexual relationships. The old saw about not doing it in the streets and frightening the horses seems not altogether empty advice, wherever the legalities may lie.

by Andrew Geddis on March 27, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Stuart,

Does the fact that Winston Churchill was a functioning alcoholic alter your analysis at all? Didn't seem to stop him saving the UK, and possibly all of Europe, from tyranny - or being re-elected as PM thereafter.

As for a politician's sexual predilictions, there's a lot of tittle-tattle starting to leak out about Mr Hughes. To which my response is, once again, so what? It's the same (to me) as hearing that a politician enjoys leaping out of airplanes with a parachute. Risk-taking behaviour I may not personally wish to engage in ... but so what? Vive la differance, and all that.

However, the consensus seems to be that even if there is no criminality involved (which, I reiterate, is another ball game altogether), Mr Hughes was "unwise" and "lacked judgment". The basis for this consensus then is that if people (or, rather, the media) found out what he was doing, they would disapprove. I guess that has proven true. But I just wished we lived in a world where people's reaction was to shrug and go "meh".

Oh ... and I'd like a side of peace, love and harmony with that, too.

by stuart munro on March 28, 2011
stuart munro

Andrew,

No - Churchill is an unusual case. Would you care to compare Hughes's character to Churchill's? I've seen nothing to indicate it myself.

 I just wished we lived in a world where people's reaction was to shrug and go "meh".

It was called "She'll be right mate." It hasn't been seen since Roger Douglas sold everybody down the river, the bugger probably made off with it as well.

It is not just MPs who must curtail their extra-curricular activities you know.  Many professions have 'good character' requirements - teachers, police etc. One of the curiosities of teaching in my current location is regular drug & HIV testing of foreign teachers - rendered somewhat more curious by the fact that foreign bar and 'room salon hostesses' are not so tested.

by Rich on March 28, 2011
Rich

"Good character" is typically defined as compliance with the law, and with particular codes of practice for a profession. That may proscribe, for instance, a relationship with someone the employee is professionally involved with. I don't believe it would be defensible to argue that a promiscuous gay person, for instance, was not of good character per se.

 

(and this isn't to say that anyone discussed here falls into that category).

 

by stuart munro on March 28, 2011
stuart munro

"Good character" is typically defined as compliance with the law...

No, it goes a bit further than that, (in the case of teachers) it requires respectable dress and behaviour. I think that Clint Rickards might say that police behaviour is also constrained considerably further than bare consent. For either profession, actions resulting naked persons running about at 5 a.m. might well be sufficient to assail the presumption of good character.

Certainly a promiscuous gay person should not automatically lose good character status, but if they were flamboyant or indiscreet it is certainly a possibility. But then a flamboyant, or indiscreet promiscuous hetereosexual runs a similar risk.

 

by on March 29, 2011
Anonymous

Anyone in politics MUST surely know that their private life will be open to scrutiny from time to time.

This is why I cant believe that someone in a comment above called Hughes Intelligent - no politician can be politically intellegent when they take an (apparently) very drunk young person back to his house (owned by the parties deputy leader at that) - and this young person wakes in the morning to find himself naked - and he doesnt remember getting his gear off. We havent heard yet where he woke up....

If this was a young woman Hughes could be looking at a stretch of several years at Her Majesties Pleasure - ie: prison.  He maybe anyway.

 

What has struck me in recent years is that there is a group of homosexual people in politices - mostly in Labour - who have lost their ability to understand circumspect. They seem to think that anything is OK, especially if it involves moral values. Just look at Carter and his thoughts on spending public money. He didnt actually believe that he had any responsibility for accounting for the costs involved in his travels. And it now seems that Hughes seems to think that there are no limits to his sexual advances (there has been at least one other reported incident where Hughes advances were quite public and the recipient was very unimpressed...)

Hughes fall from grace has nothing to do with the police enquiry - he is without doubt guilty of political stupidity, guilty of showing very bad judgment, guilty of showing total lack of appreciation for the consequences of doing something stupid. The political verdict is 'Guilty as the media reports it"  and thats what politics is pretty much all about.

The next step for him is if he is guilty in the eyes of the law

Most people are (and will remain)very uncomfortable about homosexuality - especially when the people making decisions that affect their life is being made by someone who has different values than them - especially when it becomes blatant. Homosexuality is fine when it involves someone who you will never have anything to do with. I dont think that will ever change.

 

by Andrew Geddis on March 29, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Stuart,

You, of course, beg the question as to whether there should be "good character" requirements for teachers or police officers. What is the reason for imposing such (as opposed to, say, on university lecturers or plumbers)? Well, it can only be that the nature of their profession requires not just base compliance with the law, but also some sense that the "kind of person" they are matters. So, a mother might be a bit leery of sending her kids to school and into the personal care of a teacher who she knows acts in porn films after hours - and parental trust in teachers is a key component of the teaching role. Just as a polynesian family might be a bit concerned if the cop who turns up to deal with their burgled home is known to be a member of a racist organisation - and victims' trust in the police is a key component of the policing role. The question then becomes, is there a reason to impose a similar "good character" requirement on MPs, such that their personal actions makes them unsuited to fulfill the role that they are expected to perform?

Barry,

I've agreed that as a matter of fact Hughes' behaviour was politically foolish. My argument is that it would be better to have a world in which matters of sexual predeliction were not considered to be career killers. As for "Homosexuality is fine when it involves someone who you will never have anything to do with. I dont think that will ever change", replace the term "Homosexuality" with "women", "the working class" or "black people" and see how it reads.

by on March 29, 2011
Anonymous

Andrew - Sexual behaviour has always been, is, and will always be - a matter of strong public opinion. You may not like that, but its a reality of life. Most people see ones sexual behaviour as a strong indicator of ones general morals.  If a man or woman plays fast and loose with their sexual behaviour, then that is generally regarded by the public at large as a good indicator of your attitude to other people. It is an indicator of trust and respect and honesty (in relationships), etc. Take the case of Don Brash - he was probably going to survive until his sexual dalliances came to public notice.

As for  replace the term "Homosexuality" with "women", "the working class" or "black people" and see how it reads.

Why would you do that?  You imply that being a 'woman' or 'working class' or 'black' is akin to being homosexual - and thus frowned upon by the majority of society -  which includes the 50% who are women (with respect to being a 'woman').

To take your implication further you imply that being one of those three classes makes you particularly unsuited to being a politician with a good sense of propriety. I haven’t seen that these groups are any more smart or stupid in politics than 'males', or 'asians' or 'non-blacks' etc.

But weve certainly seen good evidence that a good number of homosexuals in NZ politics have proven to lack any sense of accountability and good behaviour.  And thats not just Hughes and Carter. There are plenty more who havent come a gutsa yet, but theyve regulalry shown a high degree of arrogance of and disdain for the public at large.

 

by Andrew Geddis on March 29, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Barry,

Two hundred year ago, the idea that a child born to a working man could become prime minister was impossible. Two generations ago, the idea that a woman could ever be accepted as prime minister was considered laughable. Twenty years ago, the idea that a black man could become the most powerful elected man on earth was risible. Now, you'll claim these are "different cases" in that they represent irrational prejudices being overcome, while judgements about homosexual or other behaviour are moral in nature. To which I say, welcome to the dustbin of history. There's simply no difference at all in being gay or being female/working class/black - and the ever increasing number of openly gay MPs proves this point.

As for "Most people see ones sexual behaviour as a strong indicator of ones general morals", were the people of Carterton and then the Wiararapa generally unusually amoral when they voted Georgina Beyer into office repeatedly?  Or, are you using "most people" in the sense of "me and people like me"? In which case, I'd say "most people" would think you are wrong.

As for "Take the case of Don Brash - he was probably going to survive until his sexual dalliances came to public notice" ... really? You don't think the small matter of the publication of "The Hollow Men" mightn't have been the death blow? I mean, take this TVNZ account of Brash's resignation ... which doesn't mention the Foreman episode at all. So I suspect you're reinterpreting history to suit your argument.

by Claire Browning on March 29, 2011
Claire Browning

But weve certainly seen good evidence that a good number of homosexuals in NZ politics have proven to lack any sense of accountability and good behaviour.  And thats not just Hughes and Carter. There are plenty more who havent come a gutsa yet, but theyve regulalry shown a high degree of arrogance of and disdain for the public at large.

Really? Well, no, not really. Unless you want to name them? Because in fact, the list off the top of my head of "homosexuals in NZ politics" who "haven't come a gutsa" (nor are looking likely to) is at least four times longer (and growing) than the list of those who have, which totals exactly ... Hughes and Carter.

Did Chris Carter's downfall have anything to do with his sexuality? No. It had more to do with being a dick - as in, having a massive sense of entitlement. Was his sexual behaviour ever questioned? No: stable relationship, that would put a fair few marriages to shame. Does Darren Hughes' (apparent) tendency to misread sexual cues have anything to do with being gay? Does his (rumoured) tendency to "play fast and loose"? No - although, being male, and young, and pissed on Courtenay Place at 2 am in the morning may have something to do with it ...

by stuart munro on March 29, 2011
stuart munro

is there a reason to impose a similar "good character" requirement on MPs

Perhaps a profession that represents New Zealand all too often, and pretends to the title of 'the honorable' ought to care about good character.

By all means make the case that NZ is better served by squalid, mean, lazy, dishonest and sleazy MPs. If you can.

by Mr Magoo on March 29, 2011
Mr Magoo

Thank you for going and spoiling my food for thought.

And you wonder why I am such a cynic??

 

 

by on March 29, 2011
Anonymous

Andrew - Golda Meir was an early prime minister and she was able to do that because she came from a background of a society that had long had group child care - which allowed many Israeli women to participate in normal kibbutz day to day activity. It wasnt prejudice that prevented women from becoming prime ministers - it was lack of alternate child care facilities in most countries.  Its things like child care that have restricted womens activity in the past. Yes - many thought it was for some other reason - but for years there have been many capable women who were in charge of companies and countries.   Take even Clark and  Gillard - both were/are unrestricted by the responsibility of children. And throughout history men have always been un-encumbered by the responsibility of minute to minute care of children.  Its remarkeable the changes in society - women are getting more child care and that allows them to share the responsibility of child care and to take on jobs that were all male 50 years ago. In the mean time men have been released from their responsibility of child care by such things as child care and womens lib and things like the DPB.

Society had attitudes about women because thats what women did at that time - women had never (in large numbers) done anything else previously.  Its not prejudices that restrict people - its usually other circumstances. If you read the book "where have all the liberals gone" it sets out pretty clearly why blacks in the US are a group that one might think are the subject of prejudice, but in fact they are mostly a low socio-economic group because of their attitudes to education and social responsibility and crime. Flynn actually lays most of the blame for the state of US blacks at the feet of black women. He contrasts the black community with the hispanic community and the reasons for the differences between them.

 

Oh - and how long has Hu Jintao been regarded as  a black man (and yes he is elected - maybe not in the way you and I think an election should be run, but he is elected)

 

by Mr Magoo on March 29, 2011
Mr Magoo

And that folks is the new racism. Dress it up as self determination and regurgitate it wherever you can.

In case you are wondering the book being referred to is reviewed here:

http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/flynn0409.htm

I particularily like how he compares "black America" to the hispanic communities. Because of cause they were brutally treated slaves also trying to make their way in the very society that enslaved them....still run by the people that enslaved them...

 

by stuart munro on March 29, 2011
stuart munro

Racism. Of course the Hughes incident all comes down to racism. It is after all a theory of everything. Pshaw.

by Mr Magoo on March 29, 2011
Mr Magoo

You are right I meant bigotry. But I read the book review and it was about race and it stuck in my head.

We are not bigoted, the minority deserves the opinion we give it because that is the only conclusion a rational human being could come to and they damned well deserve it.

by stuart munro on March 30, 2011
stuart munro

Perhaps you should read the book. I've known Flynn since I was five, and he was never especially given to entertaining vagrant opinions without visible means of support.

by Mr Magoo on March 30, 2011
Mr Magoo

No thanks. I don't know him and so do not have any emotional attachment.

The review was enough to tell me what a waste of time it would be.

by stuart munro on March 30, 2011
stuart munro

You don't know him, so you never watched new students, decade after decade, fly their dubious kites at him and find that they had committed major and embarrassing assumptions. Flynn is not some  post-modern lightweight, to be marginalised by a facticious accusation of bigotry. You could read part of it on Amazon if your preconceptions would allow it.

by danniel on January 14, 2012
danniel

Well you know how it's like sometime only being accused of doing something puts a tag on you, a tag that more often than not can hunt you for a long time. I am studying for my online criminal justice degree and I am learning about how difficult it is to cope with this kind of accusations. This is where the law should have something to say but we don't have a legal background for this specific segment yet...

by rickk on February 11, 2012
rickk

This is one of these cases based on which you can actually launch your forensic psychology careers, it's complex and unpredictable and it's most definitely challenging. I'll make sure I remind it in my class, as law students we're all eager to learn as much as we can from these cases.

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