But what’s extraordinary is English’s reaction. At first, it seemed he was going down the classic Crosby/Textor line – deny the conversation, say you don’t remember etc (a la Key when he said he “would love to see wages drop“). He could have crawled away, tail between legs and hoped this would die quickly. But on TV1 tonight, he did something incredible – four times, when asked whether he thought Key did understand Working for Families, English said “it’s a complicated policy” (it’s not, see the trade-offs above); he refused to say ‘yes, Key does understand it’.
English is saying Key is incapable of understanding WfF. That, and the comments on the tape, constitute a blatant attack on Key’s leadership of National. English, 15 year veteran MP, knew exactly what he was saying: Key is not competent to deal in real policy; incapable of doing the job of Prime Minister.
Key cannot allow this to stand unanswered; the Key-English leadership team can no longer credibility survive. The only questions are: which of them is going to go? And how quickly?