On Wednesday last week, Labour released new information on Bill English’s housing allowance rort. Naturally, the media raised the issues with English. TVOne and TV3 ran stories that night. They weren’t particularly harsh stories. They didn’t really editorialise. They didn’t even say English should give the money back or resign.
Later that night, in a fury English “rang several news outlets, abusing reporters, and in one case a news executive, over their coverage of the story”. According to Trevor Mallard, the “language from English that made Tau Henare seem polite”.
OK, now these articles sound more interesting, let’s watch them. Ah, but here’s where the plot thickens. The articles were up on the stations’ respective websites here and here but after English’s threatening phone calls they were pulled.
I am not, repeat: not, suggesting that any journo got their story pulled. No journalist with a trace of self-respect, let alone ethics, would respond to a polticians’ bullying by trying to hide their story. I guess it was some nervous Tory execs. Whoever it was, they should be out on their arses. We cannot have a media that cowers when those in power try to bully them.
I am sure too, that the journalists who English tried to bully into silence have wanted to publicise that story but must have been stopped by their managers. I mean, a senior politician ringing journos, using threatening language and trying to bully them into favourable coverage – it should be a huge story. So, I conclude that the journos have been muzzled. That notion’s backed up by Garner’s rare use of his blog to write a post titled “English shouldn’t get a cent“:
“[English] needs to drop the bitter and nasty attacks on the media. His language in private is unbecoming and unprofessional. He’s on $276,000 and he has a job to do. Get on with it Bill, but do the right thing, and stop trying to muscle up behind the scenes – it’s getting you nowhere.”
Garner sounds seriously pissed at English’s behaviour and, like some other journos do, he appears to be using his blog to get out an angle that won’t make it past his managers.
All in all, English’s anger and bullying shows just how bad this is getting for him. English’s career is hanging by a thread. He is rapidly becoming a political liability for Key.
Oh, and this took some doing but on the Internet you can never really hide anything once it’s out there. Here are the clips that Bill English doesn’t want you to be able to see: