Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Minister steps down as Accusers go public

The emphatic denials by Associate Minister of Education, David Benson-Pope, that he assaulted and bullied students have encouraged his accusers to go public.

Following questions in Parliament about his behaviour while a teacher at Bayfield High School, Benson-Pope challenged those behind the claims to come forward if there was any truth to their accusations.

That seemed to be enough to persuade a couple of those students to go public, after earlier being too afraid to do so. The saga was broken by TV3 Political Reporter, Duncan Garner, and the initial interviews with the students behind the claims were broadcast on 3News last night (Monday).

Benson-Pope apparently watched the broadcast with Prime Minister Helen Clark and a few other senior colleagues, before announcing about an hour later that he was standing down from Cabinet while the inquiry ordered by the PM took place. His portfolios, including Associate Minister of Education, and Fisheries, were reallocated to other Labour MPs.

The inquiry could take months, which makes it unlikely Benson-Pope will return to Cabinet before the election. If the inquiry finds any validity to the allegations, it could spell the end of his Parliamentary career, based on his denials in the house.

However, PM Helen Clark says the fact the Benson-Pope is standing down does not necessarily rule him out of a return to Cabinet in the future. She claims the allegations are "the start of what is a rather ugly election campaign".

* NZ Herald: Benson-Pope steps down as bully inquiry looms
* NZ Herald: Benson-Pope allegations not political, says accuser
* Stuff: Minister stands down in bully row
* RodneyHide.com: D-B-P Round Out

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