29 Mar 2011

Goff and senior MPs present united front

6:30 pm on 29 March 2011

Labour Party leader Phil Goff has emerged from a meeting of senior MPs declaring he has their full support and his leadership has been strengthened.

Mr Goff met with his frontbench MPson Tuesday for the first time since party whip and education spokesperson Darren Hughes resigned from Parliament on Friday.

He resigned three days after it was revealed that police were investigating a complaint made against him by an 18-year-old man.

Mr Hughes, 32. insists he has done nothing wrong and is co-operating with the inquiry.

By his own account Mr Goff knew about the complaint, believed to be of a sexual nature, two weeks before it became public.

Privately, some Labour MPs have questioned his handling of the situation in recent days.

Flanked by 10 frontbench MPs after the Dunedin meeting, Mr Goff told reporters a long and constructive discussion had been held about the matter.

"I had a variety of views put forward on that - all of them constructive - and we all decided that hindsight is an excellent way of dealing with any affair. What I want to say is, I have the full and utter support of my frontbench colleagues."

Mr Goff says not everyone will agree with his response to the Hughes complaint, but everyone respects his reasoning.

He says Labour's political opponents have done their best to destablise the party, but he believes his leadership has been strengthened.

Media questions deflected

Going into the meeting, at Otago University, MPs deflected questions about Mr Goff's approach to the matter, saying the situation was a difficult one and they supported him.

None would be drawn on what they would do differently if they were leader.

The party's finance spokesperson, David Cunliffe, said he was delighted not to be the leader.

They all said they wanted to do their talking inside the meeting and not to media outside.