In a series of posts yesterday Rob Salmond at Polity published his OIA / research on National’s bridges promise in the Northland by election (see one two three four and especially the timeline in two). This was excellent work, picked up by many in the media. Here’s a typical summary:
Labour accuses Simon Bridges of “gross” breach of Cabinet Manual
Labour is calling for John Key to sack Simon Bridges as a Cabinet minister, after emails emerged showing officials gave him advice days ahead of the Northland one-lane bridge announcement. They suggest Bridges, the Transport Minister, sought information from officials in the days leading up to a major Northland by-election announcement.
On Tuesday emails emerged showing the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) responded to requests for information from staff in Bridges’ office on one-lane bridges in Northland in the days immediately leading up to Osborne’s announcement. The response indicated that Bridges’ office had requested the information be provided “as soon as you can”.
Labour is now accusing Bridges of breaching the Cabinet Manual, an extensive rule book for ministerial conduct, part of which relates to conduct during an election period when ministers are not meant to use their ability to gather advice from officials for political gain.
“Before and after an election, the incumbent ministers should ensure that any requests they make for advice or information from their officials is for the purposes of their portfolio responsibilities and not for party political purposes,” the manual states.
Labour leader Andrew Little said Bridges should be sacked not only as Transport Minister, but should lose all of his ministerial warrants, because of the emails.
The issue was first raised by Polity, the blog of Rob Salmond, who is a contractor to the Labour Party.
Seems like a very clear breach of the Cabinet Manual, Section 6.60 as quoted in the piece above. So, what does John Key plan to do?
John Key stands by Simon Bridges after he’s accused of breaching Cabinet guidelines
Prime Minister John Key says he has no plans to take action against Transport Minister Simon Bridges following claims he may have breached Cabinet guidelines by receiving official advice on his by-election bridge upgrade promises prior to their announcement.
Hardly a surprise, given Key’s track record. During one of Judith Collins’ many misadventures he wrote the Manual off as “a “set of rules which are always just a guideline anyway”. Guidelines (like advice and factual evidence) can be safely ignored.
So, might as well burn the Cabinet Manual, at least for the remainder of this government’s term. It’s pretty clear now that Key has no intention of being held to account, or holding his ministers to account, by or for anything at all.
Update: Andrew Geddis has written (as usual!) a much better post about this, go read it at Pundit (ht wyndham in comments).
Update: Rob Salmond still on the case…
— Rob Salmond (@rsalmond) April 14, 2015