So, Key wants Gilmore gone. Gilmore lied to Key about the whether he threatened the waiter with the wrath of the PM’s office. Bringing Key’s office itself was bad enough but Key accepted Gilmore’s lie. When that lie was exposed, Key knew his authority as leader had been trifled with. Gilmore now has to go. But Key can’t boot him. So, out is coming the dirt.
It shouldn’t have played out like this, of course. Key should have grabbed hold of Gilmore when this first broke and got him to write out and sign a definitive account of what happened with the waiter there and then. If it had been revealed to be false in any way, Key would have waved it and Gilmore would have been out.
But Key, it appears, still hasn’t met with Gilmore. When the scandal broke, Key relied on phone calls and emails between Gilmore and Captain Panicpants to sort it. If Panicpants was a Malcolm Tucker – the clenched righthand fist of the leader – that might have worked. He’s not. He doesn’t have the mana. Gilmore lied to him where he might not have lied to Key, and it wouldn’t have mattered if he had because Key would have had his signed statement to hold against him if he did lie.
Instead, Gilmore lied. And like always happens in these scandals, it was the lies that did him in. The lies unraveled when the texts came out. Key, know his character, should never given him the room to lie.
Key, at this point, had to either say to his party and the country: ‘I’m the kind of leader whom my people can lie to and I am too weak to do anything about it’, or he had to boot Gilmore out. And so he made it crystal clear that Gilmore should resign.
Problem is, Gilmore doesn’t have to go – only death, incapacitation, or a serious conviction can force him from Parliament (and that is the same whether an MP has an electorate or is on the list, so don’t blame MMP).
Most MPs would display enough loyalty to their party to go when told to go. Worth did. But Worth didn’t have Gilmore’s ego. The whole ‘Gilmore for PM’ thing didn’t come out of nowhere. Gilmore, I’m told, genuinely believes he is destined for the top job. And he’s not going to get there if he resigns from Parliament, is he?
This is now a very high stakes game for Key. He’s told a member of his caucus to leave Parliament. Gilmore hasn’t gone. Key can’t kick him of out Parliament because his actions make you think that there’s better than even odds he would stay on as an independent, and he holds in his hands Key’s majority on rightwing policies. Key’s mana is under serious threat here. What kind of PM is so weak that he has to keep in his caucus someone that he has told to leave? Through lax initial crisis management, so typical of Key’s lazy style, a small scandal has ballooned into a question of Key’s leadership.
Key’s been playing too long to rely on goodwill, though. The warnings were coming all week to Gilmore through the blogs, through questions planted in the media (it was Tuesday that Gower was asking him about MBIE complaints). The warning was this: if I decide you’ve gotta go, you better go or all the shit we have on you is coming out.
Now, National, they’re the best dirt operators in the game. They put the others to shame with their ability to amass dirt and then feed it out through the media and their tame blogs. And that’s what we saw yesterday with the release of the MBIE emails.
Oh, you didn’t think that MBIE just happened to release emails between an employee and a contractor in record time without National’s say so, did you? Open your eyes.
1) Just yesterday morning, journos were lamenting that MBIE had informed them that their request for the emails would be treated as an Official Information Act request, which equals at least a 20 working day delay.
2) Those emails in any normal OIA would be classed as exempt from the OIA in the interests of protecting ‘free and frank advice to ministers’. They never would have seen the light of day (and, frankly, rightly – Gilmore was a tool in those emails but should every civil servant now worry that they can’t have an argument via email with a colleague over work without it becoming public?)
3) you might not realise this but ministers sign off on any sensitive OIAs before they go out. Ministries don’t just release stuff like this – emails where a member of the government comes off looking like a dick when he’s already in a dickhead scandal – without getting the nod from the minister. It’s called ‘no surprises’.
Anyway, only hours after the journalists had been told that the emails were going to be weeks coming, they were given them. Do you think that was MBIE operating off its own bat? Like hell, it was. The Minister (Joyce) told them to give the journos the dirt. Hell, it was clearly National ministers who told the journos to ask questions about Gilmore’s time at MBIE in the first place.
Key played it ignorant for the camera – ‘nah, I haven’t seen those emails, don’t know what’s in them, but, yeah, I reckon Aaron’s gotta go, gee, I wish we could all talk about how great I am instead of this’. But, then, he didn’t have to stare down the camera lens at Gilmore and say ‘see what I did to you today, boyo, well there’s more and worse tomorrow unless you fuck off’, because the message came through loud and clear.
The only surprise was journalists pretending to accept Key’s feigned innocence when, having put his reputation on the line telling Gilmore to go, he’s clearly in charge of the bomb-throwing to make sure it happens. They’ll even run Key saying that the media should move on at the same time as receiving dirt on Gilmore from Key’s people. I guess that’s the price you pay to be the journo who gets the next leak.
Slater’s already hinting that the next round of shit Gilmore will find himself in is personal.
Now, personally, I love to see Key’s leadership in question and I don’t give a damn if National has to turn its dirt machine on one of its own to no effect. And there’s no doubt that it was Key’s poor handling, allowing Gilmore to lie and lie poorly, that has created the current situation.
But it doesn’t matter. Gilmore might want it to be one way, but it’s the other way. If I was Gilmore, I would sit down and watch The Wire this weekend. I would realise who’s the King and who’s the pawn. I would realise that he’s going down easy or he’s going down hard but, with Key’s mana on the line, he’s definitely going down – so he best get it over with.