New Zealand: Prime Minister Ardern's Government Rocked By Bullying Allegations From Indian-Origin MP As Her Approval Rating Hits Record Low

by Swarajya Staff - Aug 16, 2022 04:53 PM +05:30 IST
New Zealand: Prime Minister Ardern's Government Rocked By Bullying Allegations From Indian-Origin MP As Her Approval Rating Hits Record LowApproval rating of Jacinda Ardern at record low.
Snapshot
  • Dr Sharma says that he was hesitant to go public with the bullying allegations but he believes he had no other way after spending 18 months trying to raise his concerns with the party whips and leader.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office has been rocked by bullying allegations. Her own party's Labour MPs allege that the Prime Minister's chief of staff repeatedly failed to take the complaints seriously.

Dr Gaurav Sharma, a Indian-origin Labour MP from Hamilton West, posted on Facebook about several incidents of bullying. He also posted screenshots of MPs complaining of the behaviour.

The party has since suspended the MP in a move which PM Ardern claimed was based on a "unanimous decision" made at a special caucus meeting.

Dr Sharma claimed he had told Ms Ardern’s Chief of Staff that then-chief whip Kieran McAnulty’s bullying behaviour was so rife that one MP spent "almost three hours in tears talking about how they were being treated", while another asked how to fake a COVID-19 diagnosis so they could miss work.

“I specifically flagged to the Chief of Staff in our meeting that there were many members of caucus in this situation and I was worried about their mental health as well as lack of any support or due process,” Dr Sharma's social media post read.

“This isn’t just any staff, this is the Chief of Staff of PMO. I specifically said that this needed to be investigated but nothing was done at all," he added.

Dr Sharma spoke out about the rampant bullying culture in an opinion piece for the New Zealand Herald last week.

Mr McAnulty has since been promoted from chief whip to Deputy Leader of the House with Dr Sharma claiming the decision sent a message to the bullied caucus members that their “well-being and concerns didn’t matter”.

Ardern has, however, said that she has not seen any evidence to support Dr Sharma’s claims.

“I’ve said that I haven’t seen anything to substantiate them, because I have looked through and examined some of what has occurred, I would say that I can see that there has been a disagreement, but I haven’t seen evidence that suggests or substantiates those allegations," she said.

"We have always been concerned about ensuring that the wellbeing of our MPs sits first and foremost. We look to try and seek resolution to these issues this week in order to give a pathway forward but front and centre will always be the wellbeing of our staff but also the wellbeing of our MPs," she added.

In one of the screenshots shared by Dr Sharma, an MP wrote that, "I feel like I'm being poisoned" to describe the psychological stress.

Dr Sharma says that he was hesitant to go public with the bullying allegations but he believes he had no other way after spending 18 months trying to raise his concerns with the party whips and leader.

“I have been told since my op-Ed came out that I shouldn’t talk to the media and instead should raise things with the Whips or the Leader but that’s exactly what I have tried to do for last 1.5 years without being heard at all,” he said.

“And now I am being silenced again as such the bullying continues. I have been driven to this point because even now the party and its leadership refuses to believe that there is a problem.”

The allegations of bullying come at a time when Ardern is already struggling to retain the support of her people. She currently has the lowest approval rating. Her approval rating have been declining for weeks and her Labour Party could face an uphill struggle to retain power next year, a new political poll shows, according to news reports.

Ardern’s rating as preferred prime minister fell to 30 per cent from 33 per cent in May, according to a 1News Kantar poll conducted in the first week of August. Her rating is the lowest since she became prime minister in 2017. The poll was published on the first week of August in Wellington.

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