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Key: “I just followed what was in my diary”

Written By: - Date published: 11:26 am, September 2nd, 2008 - 36 comments
Categories: election funding, john key, slippery - Tags:

TV3 revealed last night that John Key has recently met with billionaire Tory donor Lord Michael Ashcroft. Lord Ashcroft clearly preferred that the meeting be kept secret and only a glimpse of him was caught as he departed Auckland airport in his private jet. 

Garner: “Has anyone in the National Party met Lord Ashcroft in the past week…?”

Key: “Yes, I think they have”

Garner: “Have you done that personally?”

Key: “Yes I have”

Well Key got there in the end but not without appearing, in Garner’s words, “evasive”.

Full coverage below including what might be the lamest political excuse I’ve ever heard: “I just followed what was in my diary”. Priceless.

36 comments on “Key: “I just followed what was in my diary””

  1. Dom 1

    Oh, that’s even better than their billboard slogan.

    Mr Key, why did you sell Kiwibank?
    I just followed what was in my diary.

    Mr Key, why did you slash Working for Families spending?
    I just followed what was in my diary.

    Then again, this could be a brilliant new legal defence!

    Sir, why did you shoot that man?
    I just followed what was in my diary.

  2. Jasper 2

    Interesting that Key was prepared to say No when DG started asking the questions.
    Yet, he seemed strangely hesistant when DG asked if Ashcroft enquired whether National was running short of funds.

  3. Stephen 3

    Sneaksy hobbit.

  4. Bill 4

    “But it wouldn’t be possible for him to give anyway – he’s an offshore entity.”

    What would a currency trader and the proprietor of numerous offshore tax haven companies know about concealing money transfers?

  5. ak 5


    Evasive my copious arse – nothing but a straight-out bare-faced lie hastily retracted when he got a whiff that he’d been snapped.

    Just like he “couldn’t remember” where he stood on the Springbok Tour and whether he still employed Crosby Textor.

    Slippery as a jelly-wrestling eel: the only consolation is that this oleaginous slithering has left our little poll dancer isolated with the yellow gibbon and his sinister organ grinder, and precluded from stooping to another Orewa One. What slimes around comes around. Lots resting now on the nice man blander future tampon box campaign.

  6. Tim Ellis 6

    I challenge the Prime Minister’s office to deny whether they leaked Lord Ashcroft’s visit to TV3.

    Ha! Look at that! I’m beginning to sound exactly like Helen Clark, when she challenged the Serious Fraud Office to deny whether they had leaked to the National Party, also without evidence!

    There is no small irony in the Labour Party trying to make a scandal out of a politician meeting a billionaire. Can this be the same Prime Minister who refused to disclose for six months the explosive contents of her private conversation with Owen Glenn? And as a diversion tactic, she is essentially implying that John Key was trying to illegally get money from Michael Ashcroft at this meeting?

    I don’t think it enhances the prime minister’s reputation for being trustworthy and accountable when she makes such wild claims.

  7. higherstandard 7


    Are you accusing the Prime Minster of being a poll dancer, WP of being a yellow gibbon and WP’s lawyer of being a sinister organ grinder ?

    That’s hardly very nice.

  8. Dom 8

    Clearly Garner knew that Ashcroft was in town and, thus, possibly knew that he’d met with Key. So why did Key lie? It’s just further proof that Key is a politician with NO political sense! Politics 101 – Never lie when you don’t need to!

  9. Jeeves 9

    Sorry…how did he lie? His answer was unecessarily evasive and therefore stupid, but he didn’t lie.

    If it wasn’t for Helen Clark’s bizarre behavious recently, this might have given Labour a bit of a lift in the polls, because it makes Key look shifty as.

  10. Tim Ellis 10

    Dom, please indicate where John Key lied. He was asked if anybody in the National Party met with Michael Ashcroft. He said he thought they had. This is true. He was then asked specifically if he had personally met with him. He confirmed that he had.

    Given this is a diversion tactic to gloss over the prime minister deliberately concealing the whole truth about Winston Peters’ lying, for six months, I find it incredulous that people believe that John Key was dishonest when he gave direct and complete answers to direct questions, about events that occurred the day previously.

    Interesting question. Did the Prime Minister’s office leak Ashcroft’s visit to TV3? Or are we supposed to believe that TV3 permanently has a news crew hanging around Auckland airport to watch interesting planes landing? Given the amount of baseless speculation going on here, it is far more plausible that the PM’s office leaked it as a diversion tactic than any of the claims made about the purpose of Ashcroft’s visit.

  11. Tim. he didn’t lie but come on ‘yes I think they have’ – it was Key himself who was at the meeting, how could he possibly be unsure enough to say ‘i think’?

    his instinct was to lie but he knew Garner must have a reason to ask, so came out with that silly answer, hoping Garner had no more info

  12. actually reminds me of Hekia Parata on Eye to Eye, whenever she was asked about National policy she would say ‘i think our leader has said’ ‘i think Key has said’.. by putting ‘i think’ in front of statements, Nats can ater retract them easier if need be…

    also, pretty embarrassing to see someone as competant as Parata reflexively saying ‘the leader says’ like some lackey in a dictatorship, rather than a member of the supposedly individualist party

  13. Dom 13

    How is ‘Yes, I think they have?’ not a lie?

    ‘Think’ used in this context indicates uncertainty when here there was none.

    But not going to argue the point. Even if Key didn’t lie, he was shown being slippery (not to mention a doofus!) and that’s no lie!

  14. Matthew Pilott 14

    It was a lie. If you definitely know something, then you are lying to say you think so.

  15. Tim Ellis 15

    SP with all due respect I don’t think you’re qualified to give an objective view as to John Key’s instincts, motivations, and thought processes.

    John Key was asked out of the blue about a private meeting he had with a senior figure in a sister party. He was caught on the hop, and was clearly thinking on his feet. He was asked if anybody in the National Party had met with Ashcroft. He said he thought they had. Now where is that a denial? How is that untruthful? The immediate follow-up: had Key met with Ashcroft. Yes, absolutely. Where is the lack of truth in that? John Key hadn’t thought about how he would explain it. His first instinct, clearly, was to tell the truth, which he did.

    There seems to be a very different standard you are applying to John Key and Helen Clark. John Key was asked direct questions about a meeting he had two days earlier with a wealthy foreign businessman. He gave full and complete answers. Coincidentally, it has been revealed in the last week that Helen Clark had a meeting with a wealthy foreign businessman, and did not give full and complete answers to media questioning her about it, for a period of six months.

    I understand your motivation for trying to smear John Key, to make Helen Clark’s sins less serious and divert attention. But it really is very transparent SP.

  16. Tim Ellis 16

    I disagree MP. A lie would have been for John Key to say: “I don’t know”, when he did know. He didn’t say that. He said he thought so. No different to “I believe so”, which is an affirmative confirmation. I don’t like splitting hairs here, but Garner’s original question was whether anybody in the National Party had seen Ashcroft. Key turned it around and affirmed that others probably had. Not a denial that he had, but he should have answered the question straight away.

    But certainly not a lie. I do love it how Labour Party supporters are so certain that this is a dishonest lie yet duck and weave into all sorts of contortions explaining away the Prime Minister’s dishonesty for six months about her Owen Glenn meeting.

  17. ben 17

    I simply cannot believe his response can be considered evasive let alone newsworthy compared with, say, Winston’s or Dear Leader’s antics over the last six months. Plainly he thought Garner was asking about others in the National party, and gave a straight answer in response to the direct question that followed.

    In case you missed it, Winston has lied outright and [Helen Clark] is complicit.

  18. They even did a special billboard just for him: http://rodneygrub.blogspot.com/

  19. r0b 19

    Sooner or later Tim you will realise that you have one set of standards for defending Key, and another set for attacking Peters. You may experience a certain mild cognitive dissonance, but don’t worry, it will pass.

  20. Aj 20

    Ashcroft confirming he will be footing Crosby Textor’s account.

  21. Bill 21

    Two Bill’s posting BTW.

  22. Tim Ellis 22

    I may well have different standards rob, and I can only suggest that my political bias is probably the source of that. Helen Clark has shown in the past that she tells the truth. Nothing that I’ve seen in the last few weeks says to me that she tells direct lies. I think her conduct over the Peters fiasco demonstrates that she is capable of fudging the truth to further her political interests: she knew about relevant facts and didn’t disclose them.

    Should she have? Lew and I had an interesting debate a few days ago, where he came up with some game theory to explain the risks and benefits of disclosing the information then, versus now. I tend to agree that if John Key had been in a similar situation, he might well have acted in the same way as Helen Clark has: to not tell the whole truth and pretend that the “conflict of evidence” had nothing to do with her.

    The real damage I see is not that Helen Clark didn’t reveal the evidence, on its own. It’s that the Labour Party were planning to run a campaign on John Key’s slipperiness, versus her willingness to tell the whole, straight truth the whole time, and honesty and integrity. This saga totally undermines that strategy. Every time she stands up and calls John Key slippery, somebody will remind her of her slipperiness with Winston.

    John Key was already painted by the Labour Party, and the Standard, as slippery. His initial response to the first question from Duncan Garner wasn’t adequate. It wasn’t a direct lie, it was just a dodge, which Garner was smart enough to ping him for, and the whole truth came out. As Colin Espiner points out today, John Key should have told the media about Ashcroft’s visit in advance, and been prepared with a much better answer to Garner’s first question. You might call it slippery. I don’t. I call it sloppy.

    As for my different standard towards Winston Peters, yes, I do hold him in a different regard to Helen Clark and John Key. Winston Peters has told direct lies, repeatedly. He has promoted himself for many years as not receiving any money from big business or wealthy donors. He knew that to be a lie. He said New Zealand First has never broken the law with respect to its donations disclosures. That has proven to be a lie. Not only did he lie about it, but in attempting to cover it up, he has waged a one-man war against the media and defamed them. That is a disgrace, and from some of the Labour Party people I talk to (yes, I don’t just associate with nasty right-wingers), they are privately pretty sick of his behaviour. He tries to bring all New Zealand politics down to his level.

  23. Rex Widerstrom 23

    Leaving aside an embarrassing performance by John Key (I don’t see evasion, I see an inability to think on your feet and an uneasiness with the media that more experienced players like Clark, Anderton or Peters either don’t have or don’t let show)…

    So what? If a Labour Peer visited NZ, especially one that had some political nous and was good with money, wouldn’t Helen Clrak be stupid not to meet with him? I certainly think she would.

    At least Ashcroft has made his own money in business, ruthless bastard or not. Labour’s Peers, typically rely on cosy appointments to government bodies to earn a crust, even if they’re not competent to make a salad, let alone sit on the Food Standards Authority. Ooops, sorry, that one’s a NZ example…

  24. r0b 24

    I may well have different standards rob, and I can only suggest that my political bias is probably the source of that.

    Hey wadda ya know – me too!

    Real reply tonight, in haste, but Key’s record is not spotless by any means – one off the top of my head:

  25. Matthew Pilott 25

    Tim, so Clark was wrong for not answering a question not asked; Key is right for lying in answer to a non-direct question in the hope that it precluded a direct one?

    Honestly, if someone asks you if you have done something (remember Key is ‘someone’ in the National party) and you reply with I think so, when you definitely know so, and moreover it was yourself… I’d say it’s not an honest answer – that makes it a lie in most people’s books. Sloppy is being generous.

    However you have made a few good points. There is always dishonesty by ommission, but that’s tenuous ground to be stepping on.

    I notice Clark used my line about it not being up to her to reveal the contents of private conversations (well two conversations actually). If nothing else, I bet she wishes someone had asked her a while back, at least then she’d have had an excuse for violating two people’s privacy.

  26. Tim Ellis 26

    Matthew I didn’t say John Key handled the situation well. I said to the contrary. I disputed that he lied about it. He was asked an direct question, and he gave a semi-satisfactory indirect answer. Anybody dealing with the media should know that if you expect you’re going to be let off that easily, then you shouldn’t expect to be in public life. It was a sloppy response.

    I don’t believe the private conversation angle would have been an adequate response then, or now. This is a question as to whether a key coalition partner broke the law. I think that a prime minister who makes as much of her reputation as being trustworthy, diligent, and having integrity, is duty-bound to get a resolution to this conflict of evidence.

    There are real benefits to having a reputation for being more accountable, more pure, more trustworthy, and more moral than everybody else. The disadvantage to having that reputation is that you have to behave in a way that maintains it.

    In my view, Winston’s reputation is in tatters not because he behaves like a scumbag, but because he has painted himself throughout his career as the only non-scumbag in parliament. The truth is he’s as bad, if not worse, than everybody else.

    Helen Clark is many things as a political leader. She is probably the best political manager New Zealand has ever seen. She is probably the most intelligent. As far as pure intellectual gifts, she and Palmer tower over everybody else. She is eloquent and an outstanding debater. She is the most determined, the hardest working, and the most-self disciplined. Those are all good assets. But I think one of them, which she was counting on this election–the most trustworthy and having the most integrity–has taken a big knock this week.

  27. Quoth the Raven 27

    Maybe he could have changed it up a bit like this: “Yes I think, by which I mean know, they, by which I mean I, have.”

    Rex – Maybe Labour does that over there, but at least they don’t buy another nation’s politicians to turn it into a tax haven for themselves which is what Ashcroft did to Belize.

  28. r0b 28

    Helen Clark has shown in the past that she tells the truth.

    You’re every rational for a Nat and very honest for a blogger Tim. I hope you can keep it up, political blogs need more like you.

    she knew about relevant facts and didn’t disclose them.

    Yes I agree, and yes it can be made to look bad, but “not disclosing relevant facts” which have been told in confidence and are directly denied by another party is an incredibly high standard to set – I doubt if there is ever, has ever, or will ever be a politician of any significance that could meet that standard. Seriously, how many relevant facts about National’s future plans do you suppose Key is not disclosing?

    I tend to agree that if John Key had been in a similar situation, he might well have acted in the same way as Helen Clark has

    Of course he would. What politician would volunteer a fight that destabilises their government? Labour politicians, including HC, are forced to be pragmatists as well as idealists. The start of Cullen’s talk at a recent Drinking Liberally describes the nature of the tension between the two very openly.

    The real damage I see is not that Helen Clark didn’t reveal the evidence, on its own. It’s that the Labour Party were planning to run a campaign on John Key’s slipperiness … This saga totally undermines that strategy. Every time she stands up and calls John Key slippery, somebody will remind her of her slipperiness with Winston.

    I am yet to be convinced that there is any real damage. The Nats are pushing this line, but “outside the beltway” it looks to me to be a minor point lost in the Winston noise. It will be interesting to see the next set of polls.

    And in any case I don’t think it will stop Labour running on Key’s slipperiness if they choose. Clark has been a politician forever and PM for 9 years and there are remarkably few incidents like these. What was the other one – “Paintergate”? It’s a great record, and she still has a proud reputation has an honest and straight talking politician. Compare with Key, who has only recently appeared on the political scene, has never been in power, and has still managed to amass a considerable record of slippery behaviour.

    I’m trying to be objective here, but there are several incidents that make me seriously question Key’s judgement and his integrity. Let’s start here (Dominion Post, 23 September 2006, not on line):

    NATIONAL’S finance spokesman, John Key, has fuelled speculation of a leadership coup by admitting that his confidence in Don Brash was affected by allegations about his personal life. But having said “yes’, Mr Key then asked whether the poll of National Party MPs by The Press newspaper was anonymous. Told it was not, he reversed his position, saying: “Well, actually, no.’

    Not a good look I think you’ll agree. It went on from there – in 2003 when Brash challenged English for the leadership Key lied, telling English that he would support him, but then he went and voted for Brash.

    Next up we have Key’s participation in the dirty National 2005 election campaign, and the infamous smoking gun email:

    Mr Key when asked yesterday if he had been contacted last year with offers of campaign support by the Exclusive Brethren told the assembled media that he had not had any campaign support from the Brethren. Mr Key cut short the impromptu press conference press conference when asked for the second time whether he had received any offers of actual financial support from the Exclusive Brethren. Radio New Zealand is now reporting that Mr Key says that he may have received the email but not opened it.

    Since becoming leader of the opposition Key has continued to be economical with the truth. One incident pissed of faithful fan Audrey Young:

    John Key has just issued a press statement saying my story in today’s Herald on the transtasman therapeutics regulatory agency misrepresents him. I’m bloody angry because his press statement totally misrepresents what took place yesterday.

    Then we have the long list of policy reversals and flip flops. Key described global warming as a “complete and utter hoax” (2005), and later he said “I firmly believe in climate change and always have” (2006). He has been inconsistent about National’s position on Iraq, from “New Zealand troops should be alongside their British and United States allies as they continue their invasion of Iraq’ (2003) to “We wouldn’t have sent troops to Iraq’ (2007). He has flip flopped on “KiwiSaver, workers rights’, climate change, Working for Families, paid parental leave, interest free student loans, minimum wage, air force combat wing, four weeks’ leave, cheaper docors visits, nuclear free policy, income related rents for state house tenants, the “Cullen’ superannuation fund, Kyoto the list goes on.”

    Perhaps the most worrying thing to me is that Key seems to have a tendency to try and suppress contrary opinion, from this outrageous muzzling of a journalist (to the extent of trying to get him sacked?), and this similar failed example, to repeated (also failed) attempts to silence the 50,000 Kiwis represented by the EPMU.

    I do think that Key has some good points. He has moved much closer to the centre than Brash, and if he keeps all his promises to adopt Labour policies then he will do much less damage as a PM than Brash would have done. I think he does recall his childhood roots and for that reason he will prevent a National government from acting on its instincts to attack beneficiaries. I think he genuinely wants to do his best for NZ and do a good job as PM. But sorry, I don’t trust him, I can’t trust him. I look at the record outlined above and I don’t think he is telling us the truth. Half the country seems to agree.

  29. Quoth the Raven 29

    Good work r0b.

  30. macro 30

    A very thoroughgoing reply rOb! Frankly the list goes on and on doesn’t it. There is all the other dirty dealings around the 2005 election saga as well as the Brethren stuff! J K has tried to wash his hands on all this – but as the then deputy leader its hard to believe that he didn’t know what was going on. His hypocrisy over election donations knows no bounds! Probably exceeded only by Rodney. Now there is someone who needs his babbles cut! I wonder if J K and Rodney are happy to open the Waitemata trust etc. to public scrutiny?

    “Honestly, if someone asks you if you have done something (remember Key is ‘someone’ in the National party) and you reply with I think so, when you definitely know so, and moreover it was yourself I’d say it’s not an honest answer – that makes it a lie in most people’s books. Sloppy is being generous.”
    Matthew is absolutely correct Tim. It is lying by omission.
    “Bye Dear! I’m off to the game and will probably have a few beers on the way home!” (leaving out the visit to the massage parlour!) It’s at best a half truth and when you leave out the most important bit then it most certainly is a lie! Just as “”Bye Dear! I’m off to the game and will probably have a few beers on the way home, and then visit aunty at the hospital.” is a lie if “aunty” is Trudi at the massage parlour.

  31. Tim,

    John Key is an all out liar. he lies about his career timeline, about his involvement with Andrew Krieger,the Asian crisis and the subprime crisis. He lies about his involvement with the brethren and he lied about Lord Ashcroft.

    John Key is your typical Wall street banking scum predator.

    Funny how the NZ herald left that bit about John Key living in New York off and on during his 6 years with Merrill Lynch. I would think that being an upon invitation only advisor to “Bubble builder” Alan Greenspan and Federal Reserve of New York would be a proud achievement for John Key, not to mention being the Global head for forex for Merrill Lynch. oh and the European head for bonds and derivatives (the subprime crisis causing financial products.) But than again maybe it is not such a good idea seeing he was there right at the time Merrill Lynch was concocting the very junk that will cause the inevitable Western financial collapse.

  32. Dom 32

    Saw John Key in Wellington yesterday. He looked terrible (blotchy skin, grey pallor) for someone whose party is leading in the polls (I guess the Labour clawback is biting). I sort of felt sorry for him, he looked so small and sickly. He certainly didn’t look like a leader.

  33. T-rex 33

    On the Lord Ashcroft thing – You’ve gotta wonder just how important keeping it a secret was to them.

    I mean did they not give a sh*t, or are they just astoundingly stupid?

    Key: “Hey, Crofty, come meet me in Wellington – there are nefarious plans to make and public’s to be deceived”.

    Ashcroft: “Really? Score. I’m there.”

    Key: “Keep it on the down low though, kay? I don’t need any questions right now”

    Ashcroft: “Sure thing” (click)… Hey guys, take the gold paneling off the Falcon 900 would you, make it look like a NORMAL luxury private jet so I can be all incognito and stuff.




    Maybe it’s just the way they think. Sure, you try not to telegraph your intentions… but going so far as to mix with commoners would be just SILLY. I mean once you have to share your plane you’ve pretty much forgotten what you’re fighting for. Poor tories….

  34. T-rex,

    I think they are just incredibly arrogant and I think they really believe they are better than the rest of us. From Key’s actions it is clear that he finds the “voters” just a nuisance standing between him and the top job that is rightly his.

    No need to tell their real political agenda: The robbing of New Zealand and the protection of the interests of the rich and powerful.

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