Soper on the politicisation of the police

Barry Soper writes about the obvious inference that our police have just been politicised: Quote:

There is nothing more distressing for politicians than for their families to be dragged into scuttlebutt – but unfortunately it’s been done all too often.

Jacinda Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford was a ripe target for trolls. He was in the social pages long before he’d ever hooked up with Ardern, he was a man about town.

The false rumours surrounding Gayford were widespread and persistent over a number of months. They were being talked about the length and breadth of the country – and had reached a frenzy when Ardern returned last week from rubbing shoulders with royalty at Buckingham Palace with Gayford at her side.

I sent Ardern a text last Thursday outlining what was being said (as if she needed to be told) and suggested she or her partner should address them and offered her a media platform to do it. The only reply came from her chief press secretary, insisting that the rumours were false and saying she wouldn’t be commenting on them. He appeared convinced they’d go away.

That was a mistake, as was Ardern’s refusal to confront the false rumours head on, as unpalatable as that may be, to identify them for what they are, which would have put paid to them for once and for all. That may yet happen because the way it stands at the moment, the rumour mill will continue to churn.

The second mistake was for our top cop Mike Bush to become involved, approving today’s statement denying Gayford had been the subject of a police inquiry and saying he’d never been charged in relation to any matter.

That simply stokes the rumour mill and opens up the suggestion that the police have become politicised. It’s unprecedented for the cops to become involved in what are unsubstantiated rumours.

The question’s already been asked: Who requested the Police Commissioner’s involvement?

The poacher turned gamekeeper Linda Clark, former journalist now lawyer, has put media “on notice” that any substance of the allegations regarding Gayford, which he denies and are untrue, “will be actionable”.

Again that’ll do nothing but keep the rumour-mongers active. Which is a pity. End quote.

I too received a bullying letter from Linda Clark. I am on notice that if anyone mentioned things that can’t be mentioned, even by my commenters, then I am in the gun.

The most egregious part of all this is the very people who are sanctimoniously tut-tutting and writing column miles on this issue are the very ones who were feeding the gossip in the background. It is despicable behaviour and even more so when the NZ Herald is now trying to lay the blame on people other than themselves.

But Barry Soper has a point. Labour, the prime minister and her bloke have handled this in a ham-fisted, bully manner, especially letters to media outlets… the very outlets who were spreading the rumours… hoping that someone would publish something specific so that they could claim public interest and rush to press.

I am seeking legal advice for the inferences made in the media and public statements outside of the protection of parliamentary privilege by politicians who have made similar inferences. Those statements are, in my view, defamatory, including one cartoon published yesterday.

The way this was handled, with all the convenient timing of letters and other websites launching posts, smacks of a political hit job, aimed and targeted at innocent people, and smearing them. The fact that David Fisher was used to start it all off, and the fact that he quoted Nicky Hager, his pal on the same reference group the government appointed him to, also lends credence to that belief. Politically, it looks sloppy. You give someone an appointment and the first thing he writes after that is an attack job on the wrong people. Hmmm.

Most media sniff a coordinated and planned response here, handled in a ham-fisted manner by Labour and Gayford’s politically connected rottweiler of a lawyer. My belief is this will backfire on them. Instead of front footing the issue they’ve taken a broad-brush approach, smeared innocent people themselves and attempted to cover themselves with the shield of their last hit job against those people.