Monday, May 16, 2005

David Benson-Pope suspended

David Benson-Pope has been suspended from cabinet following allegations of student abuse when he was a Teacher at Bayfield High in Dunedin. These allegations were raised in the House last Thursday by Rodney Hide and immediately denied (although Benson-Pope prefers to say that he has "rebutted" "refuted" them instead). On Friday, a ex-student came forth and alleged that a laughing David had caned him drawing blood. Helen Clark's reaction on Monday was to declare her support for David and accuse National and ACT of muck-racking. She felt she was on safe ground as one complainant can be dismissed as a loom.

Unfortunately for her, four other complainants went public on TV3 news (no links as yet). The allegation that David Benson-Pope stuffed a tennis ball into a student's mouth and tied his hands together not only has a complainant but also a witness as well. David Benson-Pope had no option but to be suspended "at his own request" (in other words, the nineth floor demanded that he made the request or be fired) while an independent investigation is carried out.

As things stand, this does not look good for David. It is difficult to see how all five complainants could be concocting a pack of lies. If the investigation supports these allegations, then David has misled parliament and should resign. Although Colin Moyle managed to find his way back into cabinet after a similar offense, I find it difficult to see how David Benson-Pope could entertain any expectation of doing so given the nature of these allegations, let alone becoming Helen Clark's successor. Marion Hobbs and Ruth Dyson at least admitted their transgressions when the allegations of their wrongdoing first surfaced which is why their cases are not applicable.

An additional problem for the Government is that these allegations were known to it (as evidenced by Jill Pettris the senior Government Whip shrieking "you sat on that for months" when the allegations were first raised in the house) and yet they did nothing. At the very least, Helen can expect more agony during question time tomorrow.

UPDATE: "Rebutted" corrected to "Refuted". I hate it when I quote what David Benson-Pope should have said and not what he did say.