By the amount of explaining, there’s a lot of losing

Oh man, this Sutton thing is just a political tar pit.  Grown men stood around a self-admitted sexual harasser, and one even hugged him.  This is especially poignant as unwanted hugs were part of the sexual harassment complaints.

The perpetrator was flanked by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Andrew Kibblewhite.  Their presence, at this press conference full of spin, was to send a very clear signal:  “Do. Not. Mess. With. Authority”.

It didn’t work out.   And now they’re busy running damage control.

It was last week’s press conference that called into question the judgement of both State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Andrew Kibblewhite.

Mr Kibblewhite has acknowledged it wasn’t a good look. Now he has finally offered an explanation to the Prime Minister for “that hug”.

“He certainly offered an apology for the picture that that demonstrated, which is not one that he was trying to display, that he was siding with the chief executive,” says John Key.

Mr Kibblewhite, who earns $489,000 per year, told the Prime Minister he was there to support the rest of the organisation, not Mr Sutton.

“We’ve had a good conversation about something that I don’t think he handled nearly as well as he could have. He may have had the right reasons but the execution was poor,” says Mr Key.

Not a good look.

These aren’t stupid men.  They knew exactly what they were doing.  What they didn’t expect was the huge public blowback this would cause.  After all, the boys club, on TV, showing solidarity, the victim, keeping to confidentiality and staying away from the political roller derby that was busy trivialising her concerns and sending a clear signal that these sorts of things would not be tolerated.

So in the face of all that power and intimidation, what went wrong?  

Labour Leader Andrew Little says the matter shouldn’t end here.

“Those who care about standards in the public service are entitled to an explanation and if they choose not to front up publicly at least there be an investigation or inquiry,” says Mr Little.

Mr Rennie – who earns $569,000 a year – ignored the advice of his media advisor, Lisa-Marie Richan, against holding the press conference.

Ms Richan has been on sick leave since Wednesday last week.

Mr Little says Mr Rennie should be stood down.

“I’ve given up trying to explain to myself what Iain Rennie was doing,” says Mr Little. “It was a complete failure of judgement, I think it was a dereliction of duty.”

I’ve said previously that it was either a carefully planned move, or a total blunder.  Either way Rennie isn’t fit to remain in that position.

But to be honest, with the addition of Kibblewhite putting in a very obvious hug, which under the circumstances was rather weird, any reasonable person would have to conclude the boys were playing a game.

A game they’ve lost.

Sorry if you’re over this story  –  there is still more to come.

– Rachel Morton, 3 News

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