Wednesday, March 01, 2006

An Error of Judgement

Helen Clark finally delivered up this assessment of David Benson-Pope's actions in the house today (Question #2):
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I accept that to most people, including to me, a letter from a parent raising such issues would be seen as a complaint. It is clear that because the issues raised did not breach school policy, and were not dealt with as a disciplinary issue, Mr Benson-Pope did not see that as a complaint when he made his statement to the House on 12 May. In my view, that was an error of judgment, but I do not consider it sufficient reason to dismiss a Minister. That is my judgment.
I disagree as to whether the error of judgment is sufficient to require Benson-Pope's ouster. By my reckoning, he has now made three serious errors of judgment throughout this affair - the first was to deny that the tennis ball incident occured, the second was to stupidly leak the selective excerpts from the police report to the media then deny that he had done so and now he's been caught out in yet another deception. How can anybody have any confidence that he will exhibit sound judgment while performing his ministerial duties?

An interesting sidelight in this issue is apparent lack of co-ordination between Benson-Pope's office and the Ninth Floor. Benson-Pope's intended personal statement which he composed either on monday night or tuesday morning is replete with hair-splitting evasions and does not even begin to address why his original statement to Parliament was false. Furthermore the NZ Herald failed to get a copy of the statement from Benson-Pope's office and ended up obtaining it from the Prime Minister's Office instead. If Benson-Pope was working closely with Clark on the issue, then I would have expected to see some admission of error in the statement. Since there is none, it seems to me that he had been keeping Clark and her office in the dark. Why she didn't use this as an excuse to haul him off to the guillotine is an interesting question.

On a trivial note, Winston Peters needs to do some historical reading. During Question 4, he asked (emphasis mine):
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Prime Minister who, in her experience or opinion, would be the more qualified to determine whether an action warranted dismissal: the headmaster who dealt with the matter at the time, or someone who wants a Titus Oates Star Chamber procedure to be the way we do justice in this country?
Star Chmaber was abolished in 1641. The Popish Plot controversy of Titus Oates occured in 1678-9 and was (mis)handled through the regular justice system.