The tea tape didn’t interest me at first. Nats’ reaction seemed over the top but would Key and Banks be so stupid to discuss anything sensitive in a public cafe metres from the press mob? But then Key went to the cops. This said the Nats were really worried. What’s their one asset? Brand Key. What’s his greatest weakness? His honesty/loyalty. So what could they have been discussing that would damage him?
TV3 has the tape. The cops told them not to air it.
Instead, they asked Banks some interesting questions: did he and Key discuss ‘changes’ to ACT after the election? Did he and Key talk about rolling Brash? Are there plans for a coup replace Brash with Banks?
Banks’ answers were … less than convincing. When an MP is asked if they are planning a coup on their leader, anything other than an empathetic denial is confirmation.
We’ve known for a while that Banks is unhappy with Brash. Remember the marijuana fight. Remember Banks on Close Up last week failing to endorse Brash’s leadership when directly asked to do so twice. It will have been dawning on National and Banks for some time that Joyce’s coup that replaced hide with Brash is a failure and Brash is a liability.
I don’t know what is on the tape. I haven’t heard it. No-one who has heard it has told me what was on it. I can’t tell you what is on the tape.
But there’s no law against taking an educated guess based on what we know from 3news and Banks’ behaviour. So, I’m going to take a stab in the dark: what if Key and Banks talked about their plans for rolling Brash after the election?
Let’s play out that scenario. Just for the hell of it.
Key’s mum would have called it chutzpah. Not only is Key for the second time planning a coup against Brash – shaking his hand and smiling while hiding the knife behind his back. He’s assuming that Epsom voters will do his bidding and that it is his right to make and reshape ACT as he chooses. He’s acting like it’s OK for him to assume the election is won and move on to planning a ‘restructuring’ of his ally. And, to top it all off, he had the chutzpah to talk about it in a public cafe, in front of the media, separated by a pane of glass.
So, no wonder the Nats are in a tizzy. Brand Key is the only thing that can win them this election. It’s weakness is Key’s habit of being a lying, disingenuous son of a bitch. Audrey Young calls it his Tranzrail eyes. Others call it slippery. The voters already think he has a forked tongue.
A tape of Key talking with Banks about a secret plan to roll Brash after the election builds on people’s nascent feelings about Key. It manifests and solidifies that he’s not a trustworthy guy.
Some people see JK the smiling, easy going guy. Some see Key, the smiling snake, the con artist. It’s one or the other. Once you see him the second way, you’ll never see him the first way again. So how much damage would be done to Brand Key by this tape coming out? How many votes would be lost?
It’s illusory that this election is sown up. National could govern alone, or it could lose 4-5% and be the first one-term National government in history. Remember, National has an awful lot of soft support at the moment. Easy come, easy go.
If National’s so worried about the damage to Brand Key from the tape’s contents that it is willing to bear the damage of trying to keep it secret and the contradiction of Key pretending to be relaxed while calling in the fuzz, it’s ten times worse for ACT.
Just enough Epsom National voters might have held their nose on Key’s orders and voted Banks to get him over the line after Friday. But what if they learn that he’s secretly planning a coup against his leader? Is that the kind of character Epsomites will vote for when the alternative is that nice, harmless Goldsmith? Will Epsom voters want a bar of a party that is facing yet another coup lead by yet another outsider? Does any ACT supporter want an ACT lead by a racist, homophobic old conservative? Does the spectacle of two old men fighting over the remnants of Roger Douglas’s dream inspire anyone?
ACT is probably dead anyway. This tape is the stake through its undead heart.
Like I say, I don’t know what’s on the tape. It is just my educated guess. But it sure explains why National has hit the panic button.