In one week he went from rogue to embattled, embattled to belittled, belittled to suspended. James Elliott looks down the hole Gaurav Sharma has dug for himself.
On Tuesday this week MP Dr Gaurav Sharma was suspended from Labour’s caucus. On Wednesday Jacinda Ardern was seen digging a hole in West Auckland. These two events are unrelated. Probably. The official line was that the PM was planting a tree at Waterview Primary School but as any pundit will tell you politics is all about the optics, and in this case the politoptics were quite clear – the good doctor’s political career, such as it was, is now dead and buried.
To be fair to the PM she was just filling in the hole that Dr Sharma had already dug for himself. Last Friday he penned a column claiming to have been bullied by a number of Parliamentary players, chiefly by Labour Party whips, and even more chiefly by the former chief Labour Party whip. Of course if anyone in Parliament is going to be accused of bullying it’s only logical that it should be the whips, bullying is pretty much implied in the job title. Bullied by whips or whipped by bullies, the headline options write themselves.
However the headline written for Dr Sharma was that he was ‘rogue’ or had ‘gone rogue’ by going public with his bullying allegations. Then he went from going rogue to being embattled, then from embattled to belittled and then he be gone. And it all happened fast, really fast. For a governing party that’s criticised around the clock for not getting things done Labour dispatched the doctor with scarcely any time on the clock.
Bullied by whips or whipped by bullies, the headline options write themselves.
By my reckoning it took less than two business days from the airing of the bullying allegations for Labour’s caucus to vote unanimously to suspend Dr Sharma for his grave breach of trust. In fact it might have been ever quicker than that with Dr Sharma claiming there had been a secret caucus Zoom meeting and vote taken the night before.
I imagine it as a caucus Zoom meeting where everyone’s virtual background was a backdrop of behind the bike sheds, but according to the PM it was not a caucus meeting but rather a “safe space” where MPs could share their thoughts ahead of the unanimous caucus vote to take place the following day.
Meanwhile Dr Sharma was in a safe space of his own, not fronting at the Tuesday caucus meeting to take his medicine and disappearing from view. A journalist from Stuff went looking for him and showed just how much the current crime wave has dominated news reporting when they wrote – “a masked man resembling Sharma was seen entering the MP’s Hamilton home shortly before 5pm on Tuesday, during Ardern’s press conference”.
Who was that masked man? Was there a doctor in the house? We don’t know because Stuff reported that “knocks on the same door went unanswered”. I noted the accuracy of their investigative efforts from the reportage that the knocks were on the “same” door.
Sharma accused the PM of lying and made calls for a public inquiry into his allegations. Bad move. This is the Labour Party after all and they don’t do public inquiries. He would have been much better off asking for a working group.
Wednesday passed with still no sign of or word from Dr Sharma. But on Thursday evening he returned. With a vengeance. He broke his silence with Jenna Lynch in an interview for Newshub. You knew it was going to be an explosive interview because the interview room was set up in explosive interview mode, just two plain chairs facing each other with severe prison break search lighting from off to the side.
It must have been a worrying moment for the Labour caucus who would have been hoping for empathetic interview mode. That’s the interview mode where the interviewer and interviewee are filmed from a distance on a park bench beside a lake, with the interviewer nodding empathetically in time with the interviewee’s acknowledgment of fault and expression of hope, caught in extreme close-up, that they can find a way of moving on before panning back to the wide shot of the lake and soft fade-out symbolising the interviewee’s political future. But this wasn’t to be, so back to Jenna and the prison break search lighting. Whereas Dr Sharma might have been described as being off-piste during the early part of the week, this time he was very much piste off. He accused the PM of lying and made calls for a public inquiry into his allegations. Bad move. This is the Labour Party after all and they don’t do public inquiries. He would have been much better off asking for a working group.
As it stands now the doctor’s political prognosis is not good. And by not good I mean I can’t tell him how much time he’s got left but he should put his personal affairs in order. And he should probably do that today. In fact the plug might have even been pulled by the time you’re reading this, in which case keep an eye out for the headline ‘Instant Karma for Dr Sharma’.
The other interview mode of note during the week was the one set up for All Blacks coach Ian Foster and NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson. No search lights, no lake, just two pals side by side patting each other on the back – feeling out where to stick the knives in due course.
Have a peaceful weekend.