Bill English is teetering on the edge. National spinners are claiming that he has done what is needed to “close the issue down”. Labour are going to keep pushing. National’s next step will be to run a “poor Bill” defence. “Poor Bill has paid it back, what more can he do?”, “Poor Bill was just trying to keep his family together”, and so on. Those within National that are still standing by Bill will try and get public sympathy to swing in behind him.
So let’s be forewarned and recognise the “poor Bill” arguments for the spin that they are. English has not done enough to “close the issue down”. Not by a long shot. At the very least he needs to be stood down from his Ministerial positions while the Auditor General investigates.
Recall that under Labour, Ministers Marian Hobbs and Phillida Bunkle were in a very similar situation, accused of rorting allowances for Wellington accommodation. Both immediately stood down from Ministerial duties during investigation. The Auditor General declared their payments legal, but Bunkle never regained her ministerial position, and Hobbs voluntarily paid the money back (ALL of it). At that time National were busy applying the pressure, and quick to claim a “victory”:
National leader Jenny Shipley says pressure from the Opposition forced the resignations from the pair’s Ministerial duties. Shipley says the resignations are a victory for the Opposition’s pursuit of the accomodation allowance issue.
Bill English was in the thick of it (hat tip Joe):
Today’s Evening Post headline sets the tone for the Government for the year: “Ministers face legal probe”. When have we ever seen a headline like that in a newspaper? Two Ministers face a legal probe for a couple of simple reasons. One reason is that Marian Hobbs told Wellington Central people that she was a Wellington Central resident, while she was claiming an allowance for being an out-of-town MP…
So when the “Poor Bill” spin revs up, remember two things. First, Bill and National were quick to attack Ministers in the previous government in a similar situation. Second, Helen Clark held her Ministers accountable in a way that it is quite obvious that John Key does not. Don’t buy the spin. English has had enough from the public purse, he doesn’t deserve a free pass too.