National’s leadership weren’t aware of MP Sam Uffindell’s teenage assault until yesterday, despite the incident being disclosed to the party itself.
It was reported yesterday that Uffindell, who is the new MP for Tauranga, had been asked to leave King’s College in the late 90s after a violent attack on a fellow student who was three years younger. Uffindell had apologised for the incident last year, but was subsequently selected to stand for parliament.
He told the party of the attack at the time he was chosen to be the Tauranga candidate.
Speaking to RNZ this morning, National deputy Nicola Willis said she and leader Christopher Luxon were first made aware yesterday afternoon.
“[The party] made the judgment that him having accounted for these actions and the fact that he was 16 at the time, has been apologetic, and been a very different person subsequently mean he should not be precluded from standing for parliament,” she said.
“That’s a party matter, that’s their judgment and where I stand on this today is that I have advised Sam that what he should do now is be completely upfront with New Zealanders about this because ultimately it is the people of New Zealand and the people of Tauranga who will be the judges on this.”
Willis said she was standing by Uffindell and believed there had to be room in parliament for people who had made serious errors in the past, but were now committed to doing good.
“If I thought that Sam was still the same man as he was when he was a 16 year old who committed this act then I don’t think there would be a place for him in parliament,” she said. “However I see that he is extremely sincere in his regret, in his genuine apology and he has been upfront about what occurred.”
Uffindell’s been on the media trail last night and this morning, and indicated to RNZ’s Guyon Espiner that while this was the most serious incident in his past, boarding houses in the 90s were “a bit of rough and tumble”. He told Today FM he wished to stay on as an MP but would have discussions with the party today.