National MPs boycott Hoodie Day photo

By Claire Trevett

It was intended to reverse negative attitudes and smooth the animosity over hooded tops.

But Hoodie Day ended in a spat of its own when National Party MPs boycotted it, claiming it had been hijacked by Labour.

MPs from political parties - including Labour, National, the Greens and Maori Party - had agreed to support yesterday's Hoodie Day, which was organised as part of Youth Week to dispel the intimidating image of the hoodie - a hooded sweatshirt.

However, when MPs assembled for a photo, National's Paula Bennett and Nicky Wagner were missing.

Ms Bennett said that a few weeks ago she accepted an invitation to take part, but it became clear this week that the photo-op had become a "Labour Government thing".

Earlier, Opposition parties were not invited to a youth event hosted by Government ministers, and Ms Bennett said Youth Week was clearly not a "truly cross-party" initiative.

She said she was not acting under National Party orders, but had not seen the point of promoting a Labour Government thing.

"There are bigger issues for youth out there, and me fronting up and wearing a hoodie is not what I think will fix any of the biggest issues for youth."

The no-show drew a retort from Green MP Metiria Turei, who said it showed "an inherent disrespect for young people".

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira was also missing, because of an unavoidable conflicting event. A spokeswoman who did attend said it was not a boycott and the party supported the event.

Hoodie Day ran into controversy earlier in the week after NZ First MP Ron Mark said "promoting black American gang culture" was a bizarre way for MPs to send out positive messages about youth.

Youth Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said Mr Mark's comments only served to highlight the negative attitude towards youth.

"I don't think there would be a whole lot of young people that wouldn't agree with him. Hoodie Day is a way of saying, 'Hang on - get to know young people before you form opinions about them'."

Hoodie Day and Youth Week are run by New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development, with support from other youth-related organisations and about $35,000 in Government grants.

- NZ Herald

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