I am almost starting to feel sorry for John Key.
He must be dreading waking up each morning. Every day it is the same. He gets asked curly questions by reporters clearly incensed now they understand the way they have been manipulated over the past 6 years. He gets to regularly trot out the same mistruths and you can see by the looks in the reporters’ eyes that they do not believe him.
National must be worried. John Key is pretty well all they have. Without him their chances of winning the next election have all but disappeared. But every day marks the spending by him of valuable political capital defending the indefensible.
leak must be terrifying senior National figures with dread. Each leak so far has undermined National’s stated position that Dirty Politics is nothing but a left wing conspiracy and a beat up.
And Judith Collins has gone to ground. She must be in danger of losing her seat things are that bad.
It is clear that the media has turned. John Armstrong has been particularly septic. Yesterday he said this:
It has taken the best part of a week, but huge cracks suddenly appeared yesterday in the wall of denial erected by the National Party to shield itself from the damaging allegations in Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics.
That was bound to happen. In resolutely defending the indefensible – especially when the indefensible is as well-documented as it is in Hager’s book – John Key was not only starting to sound and look rather silly, but he risked eating into stocks of one of his most valuable commodities – the degree of trust he has built up with large portions of the electorate.
This particularly applies to large numbers of “soft” National supporters who would not give National the time of day without Key at the helm.
It will take only a small chunk of these voters to defect to Opposition parties for National to be in danger of losing the election.
The longer Key denied what was fact – especially the questions raised by Judith Collins’ passing of the private details of a public servant to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater – the more he risked sounding like he was treating voters like fools.
And this morning’s Otago Daily Times editorial is particularly severe on Key.
Justice Minister Judith Collins has become a liability to Prime Minister John Key, the Government and more widely, and disturbingly, the country.
How a Minister of Justice, entrusted with upholding the highest standards in the land, can lower her own personal standards to feed confidential personal information about a civil servant to a right-wing blogger – knowing full-well the consequences of her actions – is beyond most right-minded people.
Mr Key should sack Ms Collins now, but will not take that action.
The reason he will not sack her is, of course, because the election is a month away and to remove the Justice Minister now will give further oxygen to an issue he has already handled badly.
National’s problem is that the book discloses not the occasional discrete episode of misbehaviour but an ingrained pattern of behaviour which stinks. And the attempted cover up and diversion has been lame in the extreme and insulting to the media.
Today there has already been a focus on Key’s denial that he knew about Slater having his OIA request for information to the SIS fast tracked. A 2011 letter from then SIS Director to Warren Tucker to Felix Marwick has emerged where Tucker confirmed that he had advised John Key not only that he was going to issue redacted documents to Slater but that he had also taken legal advice on the matter. Key has been claiming that he had not been told. Tucker is now backing Key up on this but it is almost impossible to reconcile this with the clear wording of the letter. And if ever there was a case a personal briefing from the SIS was required this was it. No doubt Key will have to explain himself yet again.
And Key is going to have to accept that his office has been manipulating the system and facilitating the supply of information to Cameron Slater as well as briefing him on what to ask for and how.
WhoSlater has then in that particularly Slater style has mercilessly denigrated and abused far too many people for political advantage.
This is highly damaging for the National Party but no more than they deserve. And if on election night they are bundled out of office then they can reflect on the damage that they have caused to their party and to our political system.