Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Labour hits back at 'manhandling' claim

Michael Wood, Labour Party candidate in the Mt Roskill byelection.  Photo / Chris Loufte
Michael Wood, Labour Party candidate in the Mt Roskill byelection. Photo / Chris Loufte

Video footage has emerged clearing Labour candidate Michael Wood of "manhandling" the husband of his National Party rival after a heated candidates' debate.

Wood was accused of physically touching the husband of National MP and Mt Roskill candidate Parmjeet Parmar - but video footage shows this never happened.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the accusations of "physical assault" were nothing but "dirty tactics" and he was disapointed Wood was "provoked in the first place."

"The footage shows there was no manhandling at all and it is disapointing that the National Party members provoked Wood then lied about the altercation and then shopped the story around to media," Little said.

"There are serious issues in Mt Roskill and we should be focussing on that."

In an earlier interview with the Herald National Party member and businessman Graham Collins said he witnessed the altercation.

"I saw him man-handling Mr Parmar ... I heard him threaten him," Collins said. "He had a good grip on him, both arms. Mr Parmar had his back to him, he grabbed him from behind and turned him around. He kept swearing at him and threatening him.

Wood always deined there was any physical contact but said there was a "robust" altercation after he took exception to comments about his wife.

Parmar told the Herald Wood had lost his cool after appearing to get "rattled" during the public debate on Wednesday night.

That came after heckling from Parmar's husband, Ravinder, and other National Party supporters sat in the front rows of the Three Kings Community Centre.

The byelection is being held after long-serving Mt Roskill and Labour MP Phil Goff was elected Auckland Mayor.

At one point in the debate, Parmar told the audience that Wood will have no choice but to be a "yes man" to both Goff and the local community board.

That was greeted with applause from her supporters, with Ravinder Parmar among those who yelled out that Wood's wife - Julie Fairey - was on the local board.

Wood reacted strongly, warning, "if I hear comments about my wife from the National Party front row there might be some problems after this meeting".

National's Mt Roskill byelection candidate Parmjeet Parmar.
National's Mt Roskill byelection candidate Parmjeet Parmar.

Wood made good on that threat after the debate when he angrily confronted Ravinder Parmar.

Collins said he was one of several people to see the confrontation, which he said came about when Wood approached Parmar from behind and, firmly gripping his arms, turned him around.

"When I separated them both I stood between them, I just put my hands softly on his shoulders."

Collins said Wood then swore at him, and he told the Labour candidate to calm down and walk away.

Wood said any claims that he physically touched Parmar were "utter fiction".

"Ravinder, Parmjeet Parmar's husband, made loud derogatory comments about my wife. I'm disappointed that Parmjeet Parmar's campaign has stooped to such lows.

"After the debate I confronted Ravinder and robustly told him his language was unacceptable. I will not accept such derogatory comments being shouted about my wife in a public forum.

"After words were exchanged I left the scene. There was no pushing or any physical contact by me, and any claims by the Parmar campaign to the contrary are untrue."

Wood would not reveal what was derogatory about Parmar's comments, saying he did not want to dignify them through repetition. He did not know of Parmar's relationship to his rival at the time of the confrontation.

Asked if swore at Parmar, he said he was angry and "expressed myself directly to him".

"I think that most people in my position, had they had their husband or wife or partner attacked in that setting would feel angry about that ... I make no apologies at all for actually being very clear about that."

Ravinder Parmar was not available for interview. Parmjeet Parmar said she did not see the confrontation, and declined to go into details about what she understood happened.

"I don't want to get into describing what happened. It was unpleasant and his reaction was disproportionate because the comment [by Ravinder and supporters] was insignificant and just a fact.

"He seemed to be kind of rattled. My feeling is he couldn't take the heat of the debate. And I wonder how he is going to take the heat of the debating chamber."

Parmar strongly denied the comments that upset Wood were derogatory, saying they had simply pointed out that Fairey was on the local board.

More bad blood

The alleged confrontation is more bad blood between the National and Labour candidates, after Parmar previously accused Fairey of trying to ban her from citizenship ceremonies.

Fairey, the deputy chair of the Puketapapa board, had said only electorate MPs could attend as part of the official party not locally based List MPs.

Wood could also attend as a member of the Puketapapa community board and Parmar said Fairey was trying to give him an advantage in any election campaign.

Fairey retracted after she sought clarification and was told the ceremonies were public and anybody could attend.

And last week Parmar questioned Goff's involvement in Wood's campaign, saying it made a sham of Goff's claim to be 'independent.'

In response, Wood said Parmar had binged on Parliamentary-funded advertising material in the lead-up to the by-election campaign to maximise her profile.

Mt Roskill includes the suburbs of Lynfield, Wesley, Hillsborough and parts of Three Kings and Sandringham.

In 2014 Goff won with an 8000-vote majority over Parmar but National got 14,275 party votes - about 2000 more than Labour.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 17 Jan 2017 20:20:19 Processing Time: 473ms