PM John Key has performed a backflip by now suggesting businessman Donghua Liu should front up with evidence to support the NZ Herald’s unsubstantiated claim that he donated substantial sums to Labour. This is a world away from his previous position that it was up to Labour to prove the negative; to show that no donation was made.
In the world of the UK tabloids, such a strategic move is known as a reverse ferret. The phrase apparently originated with Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who used to talk about the paper ‘sticking a ferret up the trousers’ of politicians and other targets. If the public didn’t like the story, or it proved to be complete bollocks, MacKenzie would order a ‘reverse ferret’ and the next edition of the paper would take the opposite line, without acknowleging it had ever thought differently.
Key has decided to reverse ferret on the Donghua Liu story because of two factors. One, it’s increasingly looking like it’s simply not true and the Herald has been played like a fiddle. And two, the fiddle player is Cameron Slater, the PM’s bestie from way back.
Key is suddenly finding a desperate need to distance himself from the story. Listen to how testy he gets with Radio NZ (second item, from 45 seconds in). The PM’s transparent, alright.
This is not a man in control of the narrative anymore and the story is becoming what did the PM know, when did he know it and who told him?
Ferrets have teeth, John, and they don’t much care who they bite.
Te Reo Putake