Full marks to Labour Leader Andrew Little for accepting the costs of the Hagamans' defamation case against him.

It's him that's paying his legal bills, not the taxpayer and not the Labour Party.

In his words: "I have a view that if you accept you are responsible for something that has caused harm to others, taking personal responsibility for something also means taking responsibility for making amends."

That's very admirable.


The easiest thing for Little would be to use his leader's fund to defray legal costs and to tap the Labour Party or its donors. The net cost to the taxpayer would be zero because the Leader's fund is capped. The expense would just be made up elsewhere. At $3 million-odd his budget would easily accommodate his legal bills.

That Little hasn't used the Party or his Leader's fund to pay his legal expense shows backbone in a bad week. It's very impressive.

Little is not a wealthy man and his offer of $100,000 to settle was to come from mortgaging his house. His promise to personally cover the expense is all the more impressive.

What's not impressive is his being in court having to explain his actions, his waiting till the eleventh hour before giving a fulsome apology and offer of settlement, and of finding himself in the predicament to begin with. Little is not the first leader of the Opposition to find himself on the wrong side of a defamation case. I am sure he won't be the last.

But it's election year. It's not a good look. And it must be a huge distraction for him. He should not have got himself into the pickle, and having got himself in it, he should have extracted himself quickly no matter what it took.

That he didn't shows lamentable judgment.

He has been a public figure a long time. He trained as a lawyer. He should have known better.

He should have taken the trouble to know the Hagamans better.


Within the debating chamber he enjoys privilege. He could have said whatever he liked within Parliament safe from legal consequence. I am sure all that is now stunningly obvious to him but it's coming as an expensive lesson.

We learned something else about Little this week: there hasn't been a whip-around in his caucus. That's astonishing, all the more so, that the union and Labour philosophy is very much "all for one, and one for all".

It's not that the MPs could not afford it. And it's Little who is to lead them to Government and the very excellent position of being Ministers of the Crown.

It's a perplexing thing. His Deputy Leader could do some wonderful PR for her leader and the Party kicking off the whip-around with a substantial donation to show her solidarity and support.

It could just turn a huge negative into something of a positive.

But it hasn't happened. And if his own Caucus won't support him, why should we?