National's Erica Stanford calls for Jacinda Ardern to front over Labour MP Gaurav Sharma's bullying claims

The National Party is calling on the Prime Minister to front over accusations of bullying in her Government.

In a bombshell column in the NZ Herald, backbench Labour MP Gaurav Sharma accused Jacinda Ardern's office, party whips and Parliamentary services of bullying and gaslighting.

Dr Sharma hit out at MPs, writing in the Herald that constituents "would be appalled if they saw even half of what their elected representatives have to bear in terms of harassment from inside the Parliament".

Reacting to the allegations on Friday, National MP Erica Stanford said she supported Dr Sharma - calling the move "incredibly brave". 

"The first thing I want to say is that Gaurav Sharma has got a reputation for being a really nice guy," she told AM. "For him to go public is extraordinary.

"It's a really brave move but it indicates there's something serious going on there and it really is now for the Prime Minister, in her capacity, to investigate those claims."

But Labour's Michael Wood, appearing on AM alongside Stanford, said he hadn't "ever encountered" bullying within his caucus.

"I've been an MP that's worked at all levels of the party over the last five years and there's actually a really supportive, collegial atmosphere but, look, when issues get raised like this, you have to deal with them empathetically - you have to take them seriously." 

Gaurav Sharma.
Gaurav Sharma. Photo credit: Getty Images

Wood said the party needed to sit down and work through any issues with Dr Sharma.

"Within any organisation, you have to be able to raise issues if you feel that they're occurring," said Wood, who is also the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister. "I think the expectation we would all have is that, when someone raises these issues - as they have been raised - that they're heard, that they're listened to and that they're worked through with all of the facts on the table."

Stanford said while Dr Sharma's claims needed investigating, she hadn't seen evidence of rife bullying between MPs.

"In terms of MP to MP bullying, it's not something that I've ever seen or witnessed - certainly not in the National Party perspective. I can't speak for Labour."

Meanwhile, former Labour MP Darien Fenton, via a private message that Dr Sharma posted on Facebook, described his allegations as "mouthing off in the media".

"You should have talked with the PSA (Public Service Association) before you went off in the media about Parliamentary services et al," Fenton said in the message. "I am appalled by you [sic] ill discipline in mouthing off in the media."

On Thursday, Labour whip Duncan Webb confirmed he had been working with Parliamentary Services and Dr Sharma to address "employment matters".

Dr Webb said the party was working to provide support for Dr Sharma to "find a solution.

Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said it did what it could to support MPs.

He added the Parliamentary Service had been working closely with Dr Webb to discuss Dr Sharma's "employment matters".

"It is also important to make it clear that the service cannot direct MPs what to do and how to act," Gonzalez-Montero said. 

"MPs are elected representatives of New Zealand's citizens and that would impinge on New Zealand's democracy and the free right of MPs as elected representatives of New Zealand's citizens.

"It is our responsibility to promote a healthy and secure culture within our workplace and we have made significant progress on this following the 2019 External Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace."

Dr Sharma's claims come in the same week newly-elected Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell was suspended from National's caucus over historic bullying allegations outside of Parliament.