As they say, a week is a long time in politics
Last week was a strange one and may just have been one of those tipping points for the Key Government. For me it began with a political corpse and ended with a real one.
The political corpse was the Hon Richard Prebble. I was asked by Morning Report to comment on what constituted anonymous donations in a political context.
As the Beehive had apparently put a gag on any National Party operative making comment, poor old Radio New Zealand was forced to exhume Prebble to defend the hapless Mr Banks.
I have known Prebble for years and anticipated his “attack is the best defence” tactics.
Predictably the proverbial “mad dog” opened up with an irrelevant rave about alleged Labour Party wrongdoing. This I ignored as Prebble’s tactic can only succeed if the attackee rises to the bait. With no response to his frenetic “two wrongs make a right” approach, the Hon Richard became apoplectic. It was a satisfying experience.
For the record, I raised millions of dollars over many years and have a clear understanding about what constitutes an anonymous donation which served me well through three local body campaigns and the lord knows how many parliamentary jousts. An anonymous donation is when you don’t know who made the contribution.
If in doubt, come clean.
There is some water to go under the bridge with this affair, but whatever the final outcome, Banks has done himself terminal damage and has very effectively besmirched the National-led Government. As Colin James, still one of the most perceptive pundits around, observed; the matter has forced John Key to downgrade his definition of naughtiness from “unethical” to “illegal”. Richard Worth will be wondering if he’d still be in parliament if whatever he got up to had been redefined this way.
The whole imbroglio doesn’t pass the sniff test. Joe Public knows this.
So does the Prime Minister and that’s why odd bits of legislation like the proposal to arrest boat people, none of which have arrived, were rushed out. Like the ACC fiasco which resulted in Nick Smith’s political demise, this shemozzle will continue to entertain the public for some time yet.
Chances are that the focus will be on the alleged “thank you” call from Banks to Herr Dotcom or his off-sider. If the tech-savvy Dotcom happened to record the call and it is indeed the smoking gun, Banks is kaput. If just the fact of a call shortly after the cheque cleared can be established, then it is Banks’ word against that of the call’s recipient and a Court should make the call. It will be recalled, however, that the mere proof of a suspiciously timed call between Winston Peters and his lawyer was deemed sufficient by National to “convict” Winston at the Privileges Committee.
Mid-week, I got a couple of media calls concerning an allegation made by on the Whaleoil blog. Cameron Slater had published the “fact” that I had visited Mr Dotcom in jail and requested a contribution to the New Zealand Howard League. This was a fabrication, and though I’ve been to many jails as part of what I do, I have never visited Mr Dotcom as jail records will attest and if anyone could be bothered to check.
I probably wouldn’t have sought out someone whose money and assets were frozen, even if what Slater asserts had popped into my mind. Not a bad idea now, though Cameron. Anyone got a cellphone number?
A road trip to Hawkes Bay at the end of the week was a chance to see the country in its autumn glory, and it’s hard to recall SH5 between Napier and Taupo looking more spectacular. Staggering out of my lovely Art Deco hotel for an early morning caffeine fix, I nearly tripped over an elderly gentleman in the lift. He’d met his maker on the way up from a late dinner, and passed away with a smile.
The Napier cops were exceptional for their professionalism and compassion in difficult circumstances for all concerned. I gave a statement to a nice policewoman and she wrapped up a highly professional debriefing with an offer of victim support. With Prebble, Whaleoil and a dead person all in one week, I was briefly tempted to say yes.