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Labour leader says Todd Barclay debacle "reflects on his maturity"

An ongoing investigation by the Newsroom’s Melanie Reid has found Todd Barclay, MP of Clutha-Southland, secretly recorded a long-standing member of staff during a difficult employment dispute. This act resulted in a secret payment from former Prime Minister John Key’s Leader’s Budget.

Barclay entered Parliament at age 24, and currently stands as the youngest MP at 27. In a statement regarding the debacle, Labour Leader Andrew Little was quoted as saying, “without being patronising, there are always questions of maturity when you’re an MP at that sort of age.” 95bFM’s Jogai Bhatt caught up with Little for a response.

J: Now it sounds like you’re attributing age to Barclay’s failures here. Do you stand by this statement?

A: Yeah, I think it’s taken somewhat out of context. The reality is, he’s a young guy. His important relationships seemed to break down. I think it reflects on his maturity, I just do. And it doesn’t excuse it and he shouldn’t be let off the hook because of it. It explains it and I think that’s just a natural, human thing. Someone at the age of 24 or 25 put in charge of a bunch of staff who are older than him… it’s not an unusual thing. It’s not a good thing. And the fact that those relationships break down in those circumstances is a reflection on his maturity.

That’s all. It doesn’t excuse what he’s done at all.... and I know there was a bit of a fuss on Twitter, but unfortunately you do get blockheads on Twitter. People who don’t really know what they’re talking about. I’ve had a professional lifetime dealing with employment issues, I’ve seen things breakdown. I understand human failings… I’ve seen it... A person at the age of 24 who has a series of professional relationship breakdowns may not have the maturity to conduct those relationships.

J: Right but this brings up questions of, you know, is this how you feel about your own youth MPs then?

A: That is another ridiculous question. A comment about Todd Barclay is not a comment about every 24 year old or every 25 year old who’s in charge of people.

J: But you’re relating age to maturity here, I’m not sure if there’s a direct -

A: No, you are. I’ve talked about maturity. And you can - and other people would - think all sorts of weird and wonderful things. It is not an out-of-the-realms possibility that somebody that age dealing with staff and being responsible for staff, is not mature enough to conduct those sorts of relationships. No one is going to tell me that every 24 year old or every 25 year old is capable of - is mature enough to have the kind of relationships that you need to function in that sort of environment, anybody that did suggest that is completely off the planet. But that doesn’t mean, because he doesn’t have the maturity, that I am saying that every young person at that age or every young MP can’t conduct those relationships. That is a bizarre conclusion to draw.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. See full interview here.