Written By: - Date published: 12:08 pm, February 3rd, 2015 - 277 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Andrew Little, john key, journalism, Media, national, national/act government, news, same old national - Tags: cameron slater, mike sabin, whaleoil
John Key’s and National’s handling of the Sabin issue is textbook Crosby Textor stuff. Keep repeating the same phrase, stick to the same line, appear helpful but give as little information out as possible. His skill is that he sounds so up front and reassuring. But when you compare what he has been saying with what has been established by the media the two things do not gel.
The central issues here are what did he know about Sabin’s difficulties and when. In working this out what would help is an inside view of what activists in the National Party know. Us political activists are terrible gossips and very sensitive to any sort of potentially damaging scandal. So any news tends to spread like wildfire with petrol being sprayed on it. And you can guarantee there would be a stampede of approaches to the leader with damaging news in an attempt to curry favour and to appear relevant.
Cameron Slater has helpfully commented on the issue for some time. It is hard to imagine that he would not have informed his BFF John Key the minute he heard rumours about the issue. In fact this is impossible to imagine.
Nevertheless, the Herald understands senior Northland National Party figures have already been discussing potential candidates to replace him in the event of a byelection. Party president Peter Goodfellow told the Herald National’s hierarchy was unaware of any allegations, historical or recent, against Mr Sabin before this year’s general election. He refused to comment further.
Then the next week the SST followed with a further story that the police had been investigating the allegation since a month before the election. The really damning comment which as far as I am aware no one has denied is this statement in the SST:
National Party officials were aware before September’s general election that Sabin was possibly being investigated by police. Key’s office was also, pre-election, informed of media inquiries about Sabin.
Which leader of which political party in which country would not have immediately asked the MP what the inquiry was about? And who would not have made further investigations?
On December 21 Slater accurately predicted (all donotlink links) how the matter would finish:
The story itself, which National have sat on for weeks, is almost too horrible for words, and there is little doubt that there will be a by-election in Northland. This is the problem you get when you have an ethically challenged party hierarchy.
On December 28, 2014 Slater suggested that Sabin had lied to the party. Then on January 21, 2015 he said prophetically:
Key has accepted assurances that it will all be handled quietly. But I’m not sure if that’s OK.
At some point this is going to get into the public, and Key will be standing there with a severe amount of backsplash over him for trying to keep everything quiet.
To prevent any damage to the National Party and Key personally, Sabin should stand down for ‘personal reasons’, and a by-election should be called for a new MP for Northland.
Let’s get this over with now on our own terms before it gets forced on the National Party at a time that’s convenient to Labour and/or the Media to throw the spanner in.
He said this four days ago:
What astonishes me is that National did almost nothing about this issue for months…despite knowing about it, all the way to the top.
They just let Mike Sabin blow smoke up their arses despite plenty of concern outside of the party.
When full details of what has transpired are revealed then there are going to be some serious questions asked of the leadership.
And in a damning revelation this morning Andrew Little confirmed that his office informed Key’s office of the allegation that an MP had been investigated by the police in late November 2014. Three days ago Key had refused to say when he learned of Sabin’s problems. Then yesterday he said that it was in early December. Key’s statement is the absolute latest date that could be proved at this stage. And again if I was chief of staff and had been approached by the opposition chief of staff with serious allegations about one of my party’s MPs the first thing that I would do is immediately contact the leader and tell him of the allegation. Key’s sanguine approach does not make sense.
Slater must be really bugging National right now. Today he has said this about Key’s claim that Sabin was in the running to be appointed as a minister and the news was a shock:
The issue didn’t come as a shock. That is pure unadulterated bullshit. But almost appointed a minister?
WHAT. THE. HELL?
He has just, with that one statement bled away a considerable amount of caucus support.
I mean really? Is he actually serious in thinking that Mike Sabin should go on the list to be a minister ahead of Scott Simpson, or the reinstatement of Judith Collins, or one of his whips like Tim MacIndoe or Jami-lee Ross, or up and comers like Mark Mitchell and Alfred Ngaro?
Mike Sabin was in the line ahead of them?
I’d even put new MPs Chris Bishop, Todd Muller and Sarah Dowie ahead of a fool like Mike Sabin who has had discipline issues since two Christmases ago.
Key has lost his mojo and he needs to get it back bloody fast. The mutterings in caucus can be heard here in Auckland.
John Key is going to have to lift his game or he is going to be in serious trouble.
It is unusual for a Standard post to quote Slater so heavily. But these are unusual times.
So is National that disorganised that the leader is not told potentially damning information about one of his MPs until recently. Or is this evidence of a cynical yet hamfisted attempt to try and minimise damage to Brand Key and Brand National?
Update: The NBR article referred to yesterday is now
not still behind the paywall although the covering article contains this passage: (corrected):
NBR understands the PM was first made aware of the assault complaint in April last year, months before the September 20 ballot – and that the National Party knew before the 2011 election.
The Northland MP resigned on Friday, citing personal reasons.
Mr Key said this morning he knew about Mr Sabin’s resignation “a day or two prior”.
Asked, “Can we absolutely say you knew nothing about this before the election?” the PM replied “No … I was aware of the personal family matters for about the last week of Parliament last year [Dec 8 – 12]. So that’s the timeframe.”
Update: Presuming the comments are genuine two former right wing MPs have also expressed puzzlement at this over at Kiwiblog.
Everyone knows where I stand politically…but things just don’t add up in this matter. For a start, it is standard practice for the police to notify party leaders when any of that leaders MP’s are under investigation – or even if they have themselves made a complaint to the police. My understanding is that the investigation into Sabin began many months before the last election – April 2014 is one suggestion – which means that all things being equal, Key would have been informed shortly after the investigation began, and certainly well before the election.
Secondly, the allegations against Sabin are not simply ones of “assault”. Suffice it to say that I understand the charges are much more serious than that, and that the complainants would have automatic permanent name suppression. All of which makes it more and more curious that Key didn’t know very soon after the investigation into Sabin began, if all of that is indeed the case.
All of the above begs a number of questions, among them “did Sabin get special treatment from the police, at least in the early stages?” I don’t know the answer to that question and a number of others. What I do know from the limited information I have is that this thing has the capacity to destroy this government. I would not like to be in Key’s position at the first question time of the year.
And Rodney Hide:
I understand from the media that there had been a police investigation. I would have thought the police would tell the Prime Minister immediately on receiving the complaint.
The date of the complaint and on what date the Police told the PM are at issue I would have thought.
I am aware that Garret comments regularly at Kiwiblog and it appears to be him. I have not seen Hide comment before.
Update: and occasional Standard Commenter Matthew Hooton casts doubt on the suggestion that Police would not tell the Government about the investigation:
“ONE News political reporter Katie Bradford says police are not expected to inform the Prime Minister of every investigation.”
That is true. But the convention, going back as long as I have followed politics, is that the police alert the Beehive on a confidential basis when a politically sensitive investigation is underway. The Beehive can’t do anything with this information, of course, except be aware of it, but the police make the courtesy call. It is difficult to believe that at least someone in the Beehive wasn’t alerted in August when the investigation began. If the police didn’t, then the Beehive has every right to be furious with them.