The trouble with a born to rule party full of individuals who think they are a cut above the rest is that they occasionally make mistakes by thinking that the rules do not apply to them.
Young Todd Barclay in Bill English’s seat of Clutha Southland seems to have been afflicted with this disease. And he may have a wee problem to contend with.
Why someone his age should want to become a Parliamentarian is beyond me. At his age I was finishing my degree and thinking about my first basic job, there was no way that I even contemplated diving head first into the shark infested pool that is the people’s parliament. Maybe it is because he was an employee of Phillip Morris Tobacco. If you ever want to see an industry that has less understanding of reality then it has to be the tobacco industry.
Wee Todd has been involved in an employee dispute. This is not a good place for a National MP. Such is their contempt for workers rights that if they ever get involved in a dispute they always stuff it up. The combination of thinking that you are a cut above the rest and that employees should have no rights means that you make legal mistakes every time.
Long serving local Parliamentary Services staffer Glenys Dickson resigned about a month ago. I get the impression she was National’s version of many good people I know who work for MPs, who provide a contact point for ordinary people with problems concerning Government Departments and act as a local contact between people and MPs who are too busy and time constrained to do the face to face stuff. The work is really important. So many of the issues transcend politics and just require a competent and humane approach. People just want help. Competence and understanding rather than ideology are important.
Dickson’s resignation has obviously caused something of a crisis in the local National Party. Electorate chair Stuart Davie has resigned and has described his position as being untenable. And a second staff member has also resigned. National Party members believe that the matter deserves further investigation.
The cause of Dickson’s resignation or at least the last straw may be a secret recording. And there may be major repercussions. There is a police investigation under way into the allegation. From the Herald:
A police spokesman would not confirm whether a complaint had been laid, saying he could not comment on individual cases.
But it is understood that at least two current or previous employees in Mr Barclay’s electorate office have been approached by police.
The police involvement is believed to be related to allegations that the first-term MP made a secret recording of a staff member.
What offence could the police be investigating? Well secret recordings may breach Section 216B of the Crimes Act. The section says:
… every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who intentionally intercepts any private communication by means of an interception device.”
A private communication is “a communication (whether in oral or written form or otherwise) made under circumstances that may reasonably be taken to indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties to the communication”. An Interception Device is “any electronic, mechanical, electromagnetic, optical, or electro-optical instrument, apparatus, equipment, or other device that is used or is capable of being used to intercept a private communication”.
And if, and this is pure conjecture, Barclay is convicted of the offence then the seat of Clutha Southland is deemed to be vacant. So there could be a lot hanging on this particular investigation although I would anticipate that diversion would be available and a conviction unlikely to occur depending however on the allegations.
And how has John Key responded to this allegation of lawless activity by one of his MPs? He is relaxed. Again from the Herald:
Prime Minister John Key backed Mr Barclay this week, saying that he had seen no evidence that he had done anything wrong.
Mr Key said he had spoken to the MP.
It seems to be the closing both eyes and refusing to enquire type of seeing no evidence. And the comparison to his response to Bradley Ambrose’s accidental recording of the teapot tapes incident is jarring.
[updated with new photo]