After a stunning attack on John Key last night, Bill English is now reverting to more standard National techniques for handling ‘accidental frankness’. Initially, deny. When played a recording, claim not to remember it. When that doesn’t kill the story, claim to have ‘mis-spoken’. Finally, attack the source. It’s the same pattern we saw with Kate Wilkinson on Kiwisaver, Key on his “we would love to see wages drop” quote and we’ve seen in other Crosby/Textor run campaigns in the UK and Aussie.
English is now at stage three. He has put out a press releaseclaiming he chose his words poorly and did not mean to attack Key’s competence on TV1 last night (yeah, sometimes you just accidentally repeat four times that a policy is complicated and refuse to say your leader understands it).
I think what is important to remember that in the tape English is just talking to a few delegates at a normal National party function. This is a normal conversation for him and what he’s saying is nothing that is out of the ordinary in the view of himself or the audience. If he really doesn’t remember which specific conversation it was, its probably because he had a number along similar lines – reassuring delegates that National is still National, despite adopting an array of Labour policies for political reasons; letting the delegates know that this is still the National they joined and, once in power, would return to it’s normal agenda.
I titled the last post on this topic ‘Meltdown‘. English’s lame attempt to cover for his comments in the tape and last night on TV1 (and never forget he is National’s most politically-savvy and experienced MP, if his excuses are lame it is on purpose) reminded me of the concrete ‘sarcophagus’ the Soviets attempted to encase the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in after its meltdown. Hastily constructed, it has continued to leak radiation. Experts say its only a matter of time before it collapses releasing another toxic plume.