Written By: James Henderson - Date published: 11:35 am, April 2nd, 2012 - 54 comments
Categories: john key, Judith Collins, kremlinology - Tags: bronwyn pullar, corruption, cronyism, Michelle Boag, National's civil war
John Key gave one of his least sure and most defensive interviews in five years on Q+A on the weekend. His goal was clearly to protect his personal brand and close the issue down. He failed. He failed because he refused to criticise Pullar and Boag, and refused to back Collins’ law suits. That puts him at odds with the Collins faction and onside with Boag’s, which shouldn’t be surprising – remember who threw poor old Brian Neeson under a bus so that Key could have a safe seat making him one of only 3 new National MPs in 2002.
Key repeatedly tried to distance himself by saying that the matters raised were for other people. I’ve never known Key to not stick his nose into business that wasn’t his before, so his reticence when it came to a dispute involving senior member of his own party was telling.
Of particular note was his refusal to give any opinion whatsoever on the legal validity of Collins’ law suits and whether they should be paid for by the taxpayer – despite the Cabinet manual requiring that she first discuss the matter with him before it goes to Cabinet. At the very least, Key must see what a political loser it would be for the public to foot Collins’ bill. But all he would say was that Collins was within her rights to sue if she felt defamed. Giving her a long enough rope, perhaps?
Secondly, Key refused to criticise Pullar and Boag in any way. These women gave the biggest leak in ACC history to the Dompost and the matter has been referred to the Police. You would think that might warrant some Prime Ministerial critique, even in couched terms, but no. Key tried to deny any responsibility for what these senior members of his party were up to.
Having just said that, Key then went into bat for Pullar using the demented logic that, as Pullar isn’t completely satisfied with her ACC and private insurance payouts, she clearly hasn’t benefited from any kind of undue influence. Key used this same logic in regard to Nick Smith’s resignation. It’s a bit like saying ‘it’s only insider trading if you end up rich’.
Clearly, any cronyism and corruption is wrong regardless of whether Pullar is actually better off because of it. Moreover, we can’t say whether Pullar is better of or not because of National’s cronyism and corruption than she would have been, all we know is she wants more.
Collins’ faction member, Fran O’Sullivan, who used last weekend’s column for another round of attacks on Boag was on the Panel. She got stuck into Key. She said that Key looked ill at ease. She said that the independent inquiry that Key has refused to launch is necessary. She pointed out that the very length of Pullar’s dispute and the seniority of the people at ACC she was being enabled to take it to were evidence that her powerful friends were helping her. Whereas Key had been very quick to laugh at the suggestion that the underlying story here is about the Joyce and Collins factions vying for the post-Key leadership, O’Sullivan agreed with Mike Williams when he said “this is the factions maneuvering”.
To think that this issue will just close down is wishful thinking on Key’s part. The factions have made their plays now. Whichever one quits first loses (Slater is already trying to proclaim victory for the Collins faction over the Boag faction but it’s the Joyce faction the Collins faction is really worried about). The leaks will keep coming.