while i previously had some sympathy for the national pary in regards to the secret recordings at their conference (and i still do believe the concerns raised in my earlier post are valid), all such sympathy has gone out the window.
john key's various interviews full of baseless accusations today are pathetic and dishonest. on morning report he accused helen clark of getting nicky hager to "steal" national party emails. that would be the same nicky hager who caused considerable trouble for labour in the 2002 campaign. hardly the person she would first turn to, even if she were inclined to indulge in such activity. and mr hager has always maintained that the emails (and minutes of national party meetings and dr brash's diary and other papers, conveniently forgotten) were given to him by a national party insider.
but for mr key to make such an accusation, with absolutely no proof is appalling. this is what you call a personal attack, and totally uncalled for.
he has then gone on to accuse the labour party of being responsible for the recordings. again, without any proof whatsoever. his basis for this claim is that a couple of young labour members tried to infiltrate the national party conference and were ejected. that claim is shown to be total bollocks here. in any case, party conferences have pretty tight security and you can't get in without being a member who is vouched for by other more senior members. moreover, duncan garner stated on 3news tonight that the person he received the recordings from has claimed not to be a member of any political party.
mr garner stated this in the first item of news at 6pm today, yet mr key was on close-up at 7pm still making baseless accusations. he'd had 50 minutes to be advised, and to rein in his comments, but his advisors must be pretty useless, and he himself not particularly interested in the truth. mike hoskings put it to mr key a couple of times that he "was flying a kite" ie had no idea if any member of the labour party was actually involved. here was an opportunity for mr key to say "no, i don't know it for a fact, i'll wait til our investigations are complete", but no, he carried on with his accusations.
if it turns out that he is wrong, then i expect a pretty public apology from him. mr hager and the PM deserve an apology anyway for the accusations against them. how people act under pressure is telling, and if this how mr key responds to a mini-scandal, i'd hate to think how he (in)effective he could be if in charge when there is a real crisis that will affect the lives of people in this country. let's just hope that never happens.
the biggest mistake, however, is not all of the above. i think he made his greatest tactical error in requiring bill english to apologise yesterday. it was humiliating for mr english, made even more so by mr key glowering beside him, chock-full of hostility. for a start, mr key needs to learn how to stand by members of his team, even when they do wrong. there are many instances of the PM doing this - remember JT's apology, which ended with him crying on the PM's shoulder (unaware that the camera was on them). she supported david benson-pope until it was impossible to do so, similarly taito philip field. even when you sack one of your team, you have to be sure to do it in a way that is as sensitive as possible. you certainly don't put on the show that we had with bill english's apology.
in this case, i don't think mr english had even done anything that bad. i had the distinct feeling, watching the apology, that mr key was rubbing mr english's nose in it. that is surely going to come back to haunt him. leadership is about turning your enemies into allies. as helen clark has done with michael cullen (who tried to oust her from the leadership), jim anderton (who had a very major fall-out in the late 80s) and winston peters (who dealt very poorly with the labour party in the post-1996 election negotiations).
mr key has shown this week that he does not have anywhere near the leadership skills that are required to keep a united team, and on top of that, to manage delicate MMP relationships with other parties. if his team do stay united uptil the election, it will be because of mr english's forgiving nature (or his thirst for power), not because of mr key's abilities.