John Armstrong joins the list of commentators saying Bill English shouldn’t get a cent for his housing rort:
The time has come for Bill “Double Dipton” English to end the charade.
Now, being Armstrong, the reasons aren’t principled, it’s all about limiting the damage to National:
The possibility of the watchdog of public spending investigating the Minister of Finance does not bear thinking about – at least from National’s point of view.
English needs to forestall any investigation by removing the grounds for its taking place.
He’s pretty damning nonetheless:
the negative publicity over his arrangement…it is starting to blight his ability to function effectively as a senior National MP and Minister of Finance, and is becoming a drag on National’s performance in Parliament.
…even the possibility of an investigation is a victory for the Opposition and an embarrassment for English and National. English must cut his losses.
English has handled all this in woeful fashion …When it comes to his perks and entitlements as a minister, English seems to have a blind spot. His normally acute political antennae have gone on the blink… Maybe it was the intoxication of power which made him feel bulletproof.
Armstrong notes that Labour has done exactly what they should have – learned the lessons Lockwood Smith taught them last term. They have been methodical, nitpicking, and cautious, running long-term lines of questioning and investigation. They have no reason to hurry; it’s National that needs this scandal wrapped up. While it’s gone on, English has gradually dug himself, along with Brownlee and Key, deeper and deeper in a hole.
Now, Armstrong thinks that if English just gives back this year’s money all will OK and English will be untarnished. That’s where he’s wrong. There’s no getting out of the hole now for English with his dignity or authority intact. His credibility is smashed. His hypocritical demands for fiscal restraint from others have made him a laughingstock in the public service. He is now a liability to Key and will remain so even if he gives back the money (including the back years) he owes us.
All English’s got going for him is the fact that he does all the work in the government and makes the substantive decisions. But Key’s power in caucus continues to rise even as English’s falls. If Joyce or Powers can present themselves as alternative deputies, Key will have no use for English and he may as well retire back to Dipton. If he still remembers the way.