'Embarrassment': International media reacts to Labour sexual assault scandal

International media are describing Labour's sexual assault scandal as an "embarrassment" and a black mark on Jacinda Ardern's shining reputation.

Fresh reports of an alleged sexual assault on a young volunteer in 2018 surfaced on Monday, with the 19-year-old telling The Spinoff she was caused additional distress by the party's poor handling of her complaint.

She said senior Labour members - including party president Nigel Haworth - failed to take appropriate action, clearing the man of six separate complaints from multiple people without communicating with the complainants about the internal process.

Haworth, who resigned on Wednesday, maintains Labour did not receive any allegations of a sexual nature, but complainants told Newshub he was given explicit details of the alleged assault in person.

Newshub also obtained several emails sent to Haworth from complainants that specifically mention sexual assault. 

The Times' coverage of the Labour sexual assault scandal.
The Times' coverage of the Labour sexual assault scandal. Photo credit: The Times of London

Ardern has admitted Labour was "never equipped to appropriately deal with the issue" and mistakes were made. She has apologised to the alleged victims and offered to meet with them. 

The debacle has made headlines around the world, often accompanied by the word "embarrassment".

Reuters says the claims are damaging to the Government and predicts a "tough" general election next year, while AFP calls it "the most serious scandal Ardern has faced" since taking office. 

"The assault allegations do not fit well with the image Ardern has cultivated as an empathetic leader who wants to stamp out bullying and other problematic behaviour around the Parliament," The Washington Post reports.

The Washington Post headline
The Washington Post says Ardern is facing a difficult leadership test. Photo credit: The Washington Post

7 News calls it a "slow-burning scandal" and "one of the most trying moments of her prime ministership".

"[Haworth] maintains the allegations as outlined to Labour did not include sexual assault. That assertion seems implausible given the growing tide of reports suggesting otherwise," the 7 News report says.

"Ms Ardern didn't intervene in the matter until last month, when she says she was first informed of the serious sexual allegations, suggesting Labour had blanked or misled her until then."

7 News headline
It's a "slow-burning scandal", according to 7 News. Photo credit: 7 News

The Times of London says the episode is all the more embarrassing "because it is the second time since her election in 2017 that the party has been mired in similar allegations", referring to the Young Labour summer camp allegations.