Murray McCully

The Spinoff last week asked me to consider the political highs and lows of 2016. So I did that and saw there first package come out over the weekend. So here are my thoughts on all that

Champs: Who would you rank as the best performing individuals in politics for 2016?

1. John Key, for perfectly executing the coup against himself, and Bill English, the little engine who finally did.

2. Winston Peters, who starts an election year with stronger polls than ever

3. Michael Wood, for reminding everyone that all politics is local

Finally, we see the Auditor-General's report on the Saudi sheep deal and it's "significant shortcomings", and if you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention. Because here's the real story...

After a decade close to the action – and longer on the peripheries – there's not much in politics that makes my blood boil any more. At its best it is a contest of ideas and visions, but more often these days it is a poll-driven, often cynical, risk averse, strategic battle for swing voters. C'est la vie. But then, we have events like the Saudi sheep deal.

The Auditor General has found that Murray McCully (and the rest of his National Party cabinet colleagues) are not corrupt criminals. They just entered into a deal with a Saudi businessman without really knowing why, what that deal would do, or the basis for giving him some $11 million or our money. 

The Auditor-General's report on Murray McCully's "sheep-to-sand" deal (or, rather, her "Inquiry into the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership") is hot off the press.

New revelations demand answers from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about how knew what in the Saudi sheep deal. Has Murray McCully misled cabinet?

It is one of the most puzzling... and troubling... sagas in New Zealand's recent political history. And that's saying something. The Saudi sheep deal's always felt like the sword of Damocles hanging over Foreign Minister Murray McCully, and today that sword may finally have fallen.

The Ombudsman's finding that Derek Leask was badly treated by the State Services Commission is quite damning. It also matters for all of us concerned about the limits on governmental power in New Zealand.

After a long, long gestation - caused in large part by the State Services Commission's (hugely ironic, as we will see) demand for various rights of reply - the Office of the Ombudsman has finally released its report into the State Services Commission Inquir