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Goff to face party president over Hughes scandal

Published: 12:11PM Sunday March 27, 2011 Source: ONE News

A public spat has developed among the Labour Party's leadership over Phil Goff's handling of allegations about Darren Hughes.

The former Labour whip resigned on Friday, following a public firestorm over a police complaint laid by an 18-year-old student about an incident of a sexual nature after a night out drinking.

It has been revealed that a naked man was seen near Hughes' Wellington home on the night the man's complaint was laid. Hughes has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Goff is now under fire for keeping knowledge of the investigation from his party president, Andrew Little.

Little is understood to be furious at not being told earlier about the accusations, which he later heard from reporters.

But Goff insists that it was a matter for the caucus.

"[I didn't tell the party president] because this is a caucus matter, and I'm leader and I've dealt with it," he said.

However, Little told ONE News today: "Any matter bearing on the party's reputation is not solely for caucus", and when asked if the matter will damage the party's reputation he responded "it has the potential to".

Four days on, the pair have still not spoken about the matter but plan to this evening by phone.

But Goff insists his position as the leader of the party is safe.

This morning, Goff told TV ONE's Q+A that despite the criticism he believes his leadership within his party remains safe.

"This is not about my leadership," he said, adding that there was no substance to claims of criticism.

"This is not about politics," he said.

"I had a hard decision to make [about the Hughes complaint]. I took it very seriously - it's a matter of justice first and foremost, justice ahead of politics really, if you really want to know what influenced my decision."

He told Q+A that there had never been any question about his honesty with the public.

"I may make wrong decisions, we all do that as human beings....and I'm prepared to acknowledge that."

Criticism of Goff has focused on his decision not to suspend Hughes immediately when he was told about the allegation, some two weeks before the story came out in The Dominion Post.

In an attempt to lessen the damage, Goff accepted Hughes' offer to resign from Parliament on Friday, after earlier declining to accept it.

Goff said that revealing information of the allegation would have not helped Hughes or the complainant and would have been unhelpful to the police inquiry.

"I needed to have the police conduct their investigation in a way that would not jeopardise the privacy of the complainant nor jeopardise the presumption of innocence," he said.

"I had a really difficult decision to make when I heard of this complaint.

"If I had suspended Darren Hughes, it would have seemed first of all, as a lack of confidence in his denial that he committed any offence."

Goff said he owed Hughes the presumption of innocence and that "trial by media is never a good idea."

Goff said he had laid aside his friendship with Hughes in making a judgement in the case.

"But it's not my position to make a decision as to whether the complainant is justified in his complaint or if Darren is right in his denial of the complaint, that's the role for police."

He declined that he sat on the information due to loyalty to Hughes.

Now reports have emerged of another unproven boozy allegation involving Hughes.

"I don't even know whether that's correct or not - I've not heard of it [reports of more allegations], I can't make a judgement on it," said Goff.

Meanwhile, a frontbench meeting on Monday and Tuesday is likely to discuss the issue.

The police inquiry is still ongoing, although no charges have been laid.

What do you think? Is Phil Goff safe in his role? Share your thoughts on our messageboard below:

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  • Shorty2615 said on 2011-03-27 @ 22:30 NZDT: Report abusive post

    The one thing that is different about Phil Goff's handling of this situation compared to the others you mention is that it did not explode into a public spat within the party. No-one in their right mind would elect a party who fight amongst themselves rather than with the opposition. On another point shop workers and taxi drivers are considered the same socio-economic demographic you might find the answer different if you asked different socio-economic groups who have much higher voter turnout

  • kappanz said on 2011-03-27 @ 19:40 NZDT: Report abusive post

    This is a media generated controversy. Stop sounding like a UK rat pack.

  • dantanyon said on 2011-03-27 @ 13:01 NZDT: Report abusive post

    He should go labour is now out of the race, and if Tizard gets in as the next list mp labour will be in the wildernees for a long time.