How badly compromised is English?

There is no doubt that Prime Minister Bill English has been compromised over yesterday’s revelations about National’s Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay.

English has a lot of history in the Clutha-Southland. He was MP in the electorate since it was formed under MMP in 1996 to 2014 when he decided to go list only, and held the Wallace electorate from 1990 to 1996, which covered part of the same territory.

He probably knows all of the people involved in the electorate dispute. The electorate agent at the centre of the dispute with Barclay, Glenys Dickson, worked for English for 17 years.

Ironically, on Saturday from Tim Murphy Newsroom:  English’s confidence and paranoia over election

English says his team is confident but “a little bit paranoid about the need to get people out to vote” to secure re-election. It is an interesting word to use, raising fears of failure from a position of strength.

What could upend the chess board in the next three months to skew National’s position?

He answers without hesitation: “Look anything could crop up, I mean if you look back on the Kim Dotcom big reveal circus from the last election, well if that is possible, anything is possible.

“But I think through a campaign you need to have faith in the public. The public are quite capable of working out which bits of all the fireworks and circus are relevant to them and which bits aren’t.

“I think the key to our campaigns in the past is an ability to stick to the issues that matter and trust the public not be driven by the critics or by today’s big story.”

I presume Murphy will have known that yesterday’s big story was about to happen. He wrote:

Or there could be failure: Are the polls too good to be true? With MMP and the narrowing that occurs in campaigns, plus doubts over the realism of polling results, it all might come tumbling down for English.

How much of a tumble has English taken? Short term it’s a big blow to his credibility, and last night Tim Murphy at Newsroom promised more “There’s at least one more lie to come in the morning. “.

Today’s Dominion Post sums up yesterday in an editorial: A bad day for the National Party

The spat over an obscure National backbencher has caused serious damage to the reputation of Prime Minister Bill English. It has also raised disturbing questions about the political independence of the police. Finally, it has dealt a fatal blow to the credibility of Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay.

English has for a long time claimed to know little about Barclay’s row with three electorate staff who resigned early last year. The investigation by Newsroom strongly suggested this was wrong, saying that English knew Barclay had secretly recorded his electorate agent Glenys Dickson. This is an offence under the Crimes Act.

English first told journalists yesterday that he could not remember who told him about the secret recording and that it was “still unclear what, if anything, happened”. He also said that an MP recording a staff member wouldn’t be “acceptable behaviour” but that he still had full confidence in Barclay.

But a little later in the day English changed his story and said Barclay himself had told him he made the secret recording.

I’ll cut English some slack on this “change of story”. He had a major issue dumped on him that he had been involved in last year. I think it’s reasonable to give him a few hours to think back over what had happened and what he had done. It’s unreasonable to expect him to remember everything he does precisely and instantly.

This flatly contradicted Barclay’s claim that the recording did not exist. By saying this, English has destroyed the credibility of the young MP who succeeded him as MP for Southland.

English’s credibility has also taken a battering.

But English has also cast great doubt on his own credibility. His claim that he couldn’t recall who told him about the secret recording was unconvincing when he made it. To change his tune so quickly afterwards after supposedly checking a statement he had made to the police was simply absurd.

I don’t think this was absurd, far too much is being made of this aspect of the story.

A leaked police report showed English sent a message to Davie on February 21 last year, saying Barclay had left a dictaphone running in the office and that a settlement with Dickson was larger than normal because of the privacy breach.

This strongly suggests English was aware that the secret taping was illegal, despite his later vagueness about whether anything had happened at all.

Politicians are often deliberately vague about things they don’t want revealed, or to give them time to check things and think things through.

But still English, National and probably their election campaign are all compromised by this.

English had close connections to the electorate, he was involved in the dispute, he was involved in police investigation. And he tried to push it under a rug, hoping it would fade away.

This was before he became Prime Minister. I can imagine that John Key thought that English could deal with it adequately.

English either deliberately took a risk that it wouldn’t come back to bite him and National, or he misjudged things.

He must have known that Barclay had at least misled his electorate and the public, possibly to the extent of lying multiple times.

It wasn’t until yesterday that English disputed and refuted Barclay’s denials, repeated yesterday morning.

Now English has to try to deal with the fallout. It’s just a matter of how damaged he and National are by this.

It will take a while for polls to give us a hint how compromised English and National are. Yesterday’s big story is also likely to be today’s big, and it will fester on, especially if Barclay doesn’t resign and take some of the heat off English.

It may or may not turn out to be a pivotal moment in English’s aspirations to lead National election win, but it is likely to be a factor in the outcome. Winston Peters will be ecstatic.

It could fade away and be overshadowed by other big stories but for now it is a serious problem for English. He at least has to deal with it better.


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 21, 2017

    English will have to stop trying to sit on the fence and take sides. Either condemn Barclay or go all out in his defence. That’s his choice. Dithering will be fatal.

    • Gezza

       /  June 21, 2017

      Definitely looked like he was uncomfortably accommodating a swede or a pineapple on1ewes last night.

      • Gezza

         /  June 21, 2017

        The Todsta’s bag would be packed & outside the front door with his teddy bear, & his bedsox tied to the handle already if it was up to trav I reckon.

    • He has dithered so far. Not looking good.

      • Gezza

         /  June 21, 2017

        His predecessor would have Barclay in the political slammer by now.

  2. Tipene

     /  June 21, 2017

    Love it! Keep going Bill – affirm for us all once again that you haven’t learned anything in 15 years when it comes to political leadership.

    I can hear Winston Peters cackling…………………

  3. Also rather compromised will be National’s conference this weekend.

  4. PDB

     /  June 21, 2017

    I’ll swim against the tide here and say I think it will do little damage long-term to National and most people outside of politicos won’t really care as it is seen as more of a Southland/Barclay issue – put it this way it doesn’t make the Greens/Labour grouping more attractive in terms of running the country. The opposition response has been very poor to say the least.

    Winston may be the one that picks up a bit of soft National vote as a result which is ironic considering his many lies over the years. This doesn’t change the fact that National was always going to need NZL First to govern post the 2017 election.

    The real question is why the police cleared Barclay if English made a police statement at the time saying Barclay told him he made a recording.

    The MSM are hypocritical in the fact the during the ‘teapots saga’ they thought a recording taken without the recorded people’s knowledge was a great thing, worth publishing its contents, and defended their right to do so.

    Barclay should simply resign, it will be interesting if he puts his personal interests or the National party’s best interests first.

    • Blazer

       /  June 21, 2017

      as an ex tobacco lobbyist….he will always put his own interests …first.They may buy him off with a lucrative ‘job’…Shane Jones …style.

      • PDB

         /  June 21, 2017

        On ‘Stuff’ Barclay isn’t even in the most read stories and is 2nd most commented story after the Greens Refugee quota disaster, wouldn’t get too excited just yet that a red wave will take over govt.

        • Blazer

           /  June 21, 2017

          here’s some real information…

          ‘New Zealand took in on average 14.7 people for every 1000 in our population during the year to June 30, 2016, and Australia took in the next largest figure at a rate of 7.5 per 1000 population. In 2015 the UK took in 5.1 people per 1000 population.

          The data demonstrates that New Zealand’s rate of migration is triple that of the UK. With the Government’s heavy reliance on unprecedented levels of net migration to deliver the broken record of a rock star economy, the strain on infrastructure is set to continue.’…TDB.

          • PDB

             /  June 21, 2017

            Quoting the daily Blog is hardly taking the intellectual high ground, besides what’s migration got to do with the refugee intake?

            • Blazer

               /  June 21, 2017

              all intake is relevant….refugees,migrants…all utilise resources.

            • PDB

               /  June 21, 2017

              Big difference: People moving to this country under immigration requirements have jobs to go to and are filling a need, refugees not so much.

            • Blazer

               /  June 21, 2017

              ‘filling a need’….is stretching it,going by evidence of education visas as a pathway to employment and PR.All need accomodation,transportation,etc.The govt admits slowing immigration will impact their economy forecasting and we know all about the housing ..crisis and its effects.

  5. patupaiarehe

     /  June 21, 2017

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