Støre defended whistle blowers – was scolded by Stenseng during Labour meeting
In a closed central committee meeting, party secretary Kjersti Stenseng frontally attacked Jonas Gahr Støre, according to VG’s sources. Several of the whistle blowers expressly stated that they did not wish for Stenseng to be part of the handling of their cases, to no avail.
The reason for the explosive confrontation was that party leader Støre, in an interview with Dagens Næringsliv, provided total support to the #Metoo campaign and stated that it should be safe to warn about sexual harassment in the Labour party.
The interview was made before the many accusations against former Deputy Leader Trond Giske was known to the party office.
The leader of Labour’s Women’s Network, Anniken Huitfeldt, directed similar criticism towards Støre
Subsequently, party secretary Stenseng received support from a third member of the central committee, namely Trond Giske, who was still Deputy Leader at the time.
Both Huitfeldt and Stenseng are considered to be close allies of Giske.
VG has talked with several sources that were present at the meeting of December 11 last year, just days before Dagens Næringsliv and VG published the first sexual harassment warnings against Trond Giske.
VG’s sources state that they reacted to the way Kjersti Stenseng behaved towards her party leader.
According to a source, she appeared as being furious. Another source was surprised by the intensity of her reaction.
Stenseng supposedly said that she believed that Støre had created a situation where the party leadership in Labour did not convey the same message and view on the #Metoo campaign and how the party should handle whistle blower cases regarding sexual harassment.
In a SMS to VG, Stenseng comments on the case in this way:
– Jonas and I have had many good discussions both during the last few weeks and since we entered into leadership of the party. We discuss both privately and during meetings. Anyone who has participated in a political party both knows and wishes for discussion and deliberation to take place, according to the party secretary.
Reacted to article about Støre
The reason for Stenseng’s anger was, according to sources that Støre day in advance on December 10, conveyed the following to DN:
– The #Metoo campaign has made it possible for those who have been violated to step forward, be taken seriously and be believed.
– If we are warned, we will look into the cases and take them seriously. Those who speak out should feel safe.
– I’m not aware that rumors of sexual harassment has been used in nomination processes or in any form of power struggle, Støre informed DN.
Associated rumors with power struggle
The backdrop of Støres’ statements was that Anniken Huitfeldt in her Facebook page on December 7 had written that at a group meeting in Labour, had stated that rumors of sexual harassment could arise in connection with power struggles in the party.
– I talked about lowering the threshold to speak up in cases where there is no blatant harassment, but also concerning unwanted behaviour such as unpleasant language. In less serious cases, I said that it should be possible to have a bad hair day, get a reprimand, apologize and then to move on.
Huitfeldt also wrote that:
– Regarding sexual harassment used in internal power struggles, I was unfortunately correct. When communicated in this manner in the media, put forward by anonymous sources, such cases are actually used in internal power struggles that it is impossible to defend against. I’m really disappointed by that
The statements raised anger and frustration among many in the Labour’s MPs. The reason was that the linking to power struggles could sow doubt about the motives of the whistle blowers, and this could undermine the credibility of the warning, thus making it even more difficult to do so.
Despite the strong reactions to Huitfeldt’s statements, Stenseng also supported her in a statement in DN.
Stenseng said verbatim “that she had experienced that allegations of sexual harassment had been used in power struggles within the party.”
The interview of Jonas Gahr Støre published in DN was therefore perceived as a rebuke of both Stenseng and Huitfeldt.
In social media, there have been a number of Labour profiles that applauds Støre for his clarity in the question of how the party will handle and view that kind of warnings.
Received no support
In the dramatic central committee meeting on December 11, it was not only Stenseng who was dissatisfied with the party leader. Anniken Huitfeldt also felt hung out to dry by Støre.
– I asked for support from the management, and did not get it, she supposedly stated at the meeting.
In a SMS to VG, Huitfeldt comments the case in this manner:
– That is incorrect. I perceived support from Støre in this case.
When Trond Giske took the floor during the debate, he was perceived by VG’s sources as supporting Stenseng and Huitfeldt, expressing irritation towards the article which he thought was negative for the party.
Furthermore, Giske shared his concern over the many anonymous sources and leaks from the party’s internal meetings, sources inform VG.
Advisor to Giske, Bård Flaarønning, informs VG that Giske is still on a sick leave and is therefore unable to comment on the matter.
Huitfeld with altered outlook
In 2018, Huitfeldt has once again commented on how she views sexual harassment in party context
In an interview with TV 2 on Thursday last week, Huitfeldt talked in a manner that led to many in the central party committee to raise their eyebrows:
– What I thought was power tactics, I now view as sexual harassment. I have seen young women fall in love with older men with power, and told men to back off, Huitfeldt stated
– It’s all about a 16-year-old who seeks the attention of an older leader. As young, you want to be noticed as being a political talent, and crave the attention of those with more political experience. Then the 26-year-old should not take advantage of the situation and restrict himself, Huitfeldt told VG.
Støre hailed the #MeToo campaign
On Monday, Støre held a press conference regarding the Giske case. He emphazised the importance of the #Metoo campaign and what Labour’s stance ought to be.
– I believe that the #Metoo campaign is a” before and after “moment in history. Labour, with its history, is going to take it very seriously. Behaviour that too long was overlooked for various reasons has been exposed. That is demanding for several people. That it is demanding, will however not overshadow the fact that we now take steps to make it even safer for women to engage in our party, Støre pointed out.