The Nation interview with Bill English

Patrick Gower interviewed Bill English on The Nation this morning. He spent the whole time questioning English about the Todd Barclay saga, what he knew, when he knew it and why he didn’t do more about it sooner.

Generally English handled it fairly well, and despite The Nation’s excitement when they thought they had scored a headline there wasn’t anything new revealed. That was pointed out to them on Twitter and that line seems to have been dropped.

This was their eventual story:

It ended up being a bit of a wasted interview.

Video: Interview: Bill English

Full interview transcript:


The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Bill English

Headlines:

Prime Minister Bill English now says there’s no evidence that his MP Todd Barclay actually did make recordings of his colleague, Glenys Dickson.

English says he’s satisfied that the issue has been handled as well as it could. He says no one comes out of it looking good, but he hasn’t let voters down.

Patrick Gower: Prime Minister, thank you for joining us. Now, this interview is all about trust – whether you can be trusted. It’s about your integrity and your standards. I want to start by asking you to be clear. When did Todd Barclay tell you that he made these recordings? When exactly did he tell you?

Bill English: In a conversation which was related to the police when I was asked about it.

Do you remember when it was? Like how long ago?

It was after the events that occurred, I think, in early 2016. The police inquiry began in March or April I think.

Yeah, but we know from that that you called Glenys Dickson on 6th of February, on Waitangi Day, in 2016 and told her Todd Barclay had a recording of her. That’s correct, isn’t it?

I can’t comment on that in detail.

Sure. But we do know that you did send that text to Stuart Davie on February the 21st where you said in it, you knew there’d been a recording and that you knew there’d been a privacy breach and a pay up. That was on February the 21st 2016. That’s correct, isn’t it?

I told him what had been told to me, letting the electorate chairman, who’s in charge of the local National Party, know what I knew.

So at that point, which is 16 months ago, you knew what had gone on. There’d been a recording, a privacy breach, you’d spoken directly to both sides. Let’s look at some of your public statements that you made after that, because less than a month later, on the 1st of March, asked by media if you’d talked to any of the parties involved, and I’m going to quote you here, you said, ‘No. Not directly.’ Was that a lie? Because you’d spoken directly to both sides.

Look, no. In the first place—

Was it a lie or not?

In the first place, the fact of a recording has never actually been established. The police investigated, came to no conclusion, no court decision.

This is about your question where you’re asked, ‘Had you talked to any of the parties involved?’ And you said, ‘No. Not directly.’ But we know from your own statement that you’d spoken to both parties directly. Did you lie?

At the time there was a confidentiality agreement around the settlement of an employment dispute and a police investigation. I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t say. I did not want to compromise either of those pretty serious processes.

But you could have said that instead of saying what you said, which was potentially a lie, wasn’t it?

I could have explained it better, but that’s 20/20 hindsight. At the time, information that I had I’d passed to the electorate chair and subsequently to the police when they were asking questions.

Okay. So from that day that you knew about the recordings until this week, which is actually 16 months or more—

Well, again, the fact of the recordings has never actually been established. The police investigated it over 10-12 months.

So from the time that you told of the recordings by Todd Barclay and by the person who believed she was being recorded, 16 months or more have gone by. Now, this week, you said that that behaviour was unacceptable. Do you remember saying that? That that behaviour was unacceptable?

Well, it’s referring to what was a whole lot of behaviour going back to early 2015, so over a couple of years.

Yeah, but you said that the recording was unacceptable this way.

The fact of the recording has never been established. But the behaviour I was referring to was over a whole period of time. This is a sad situation — the breakdown of the relationship—

You said the behaviour was unacceptable in reference to the recording.

I said it was unacceptable. The behaviour—

The question here is anyway, there’s unacceptable behaviour and for 16 months you sit by and do nothing. Was that the right and honourable thing to do, Prime Minister?

I think you need to understand here that we had two people that I both knew. Good people who fell out very badly. A difficult employment dispute grows out of that. I was not a part of that dispute at all. That had to be resolved between the employer and employee who both had obligations. Then there was a police investigation. So the matters involved in this would be dealt with appropriately by the people who needed to — the employers. And when the police complaint was made, the police were dealing with it.

But when it happened and you found out about it, you obviously knew then – you surely knew then — that Todd Barclay had potentially done something illegal when he told you about that recording that he’d done.

I wasn’t aware that the activity, whether it was legal or not. I’m not a lawyer. I was concerned about the broader picture of an employment relationship that had gone in a bad way.

Yeah. But when he said, ‘I’ve recorded her,’ you must have known that was potentially illegal. Everybody in New Zealand politics remembers the Teapot Tapes and what happened there. Everyone knows the ramifications of secret recording. And, in fact, you yourself have been recorded secretly before in a National Party conference. You must have known when he said to you, that he’d potentially done something illegal there. You must have known.

When I was recorded there was no legal or criminal action arose.

When the Teapot Tapes happened, Police raided media, you know that. So you must have known there were some potential ramifications.

I’m not a lawyer, and when the matter did arise, it was fairly quickly in the hands of the police. In New Zealand, the way our system works, the police investigate, they then lay charges, then it’s up to a court to actually decide whether the act was actually criminal. That process has not occurred. In New Zealand people are presumed to be innocent till proven guilty. I’m not a lawyer. All that process, the opportunity for that did unfold. It didn’t come to a conclusion.

Sure. So let’s look at the police investigation part of this. On the 27th of April 2016, that was when you gave your police statement, wasn’t it? So, if we look at your public statements about that, on the 21st of March this year, you were asked to clarify your involvement in the police investigation. You replied that you knew the people and did not want to comment further. ‘All I know is that the matter has been resolved.’ Why didn’t you say then that you’d been interviewed by police? Were you trying to hide something? Were you effectively there lying by omission?

This was a police investigation that had gone on for many months through 2016. It came to a conclusion that they weren’t going to lay charges, and in that sense, the issues had been resolved.

Yeah, but you were asked to clarify your involvement. You had been spoken to and interviewed, and you chose not to say that? Were you trying to hide it?

No, I wasn’t trying to hide anything. I was trying to ensure that the processes that all these events had been through, a significant employment dispute, then a eight or nine-month police investigation were respected. Because until these people have charges laid against them and it’s a public matter, or a court decides it’s a criminal matter, they’re innocent of the allegations.

Sure. Let’s look at another statement that you’ve made as well. Because when you were asked, in March again, if Barclay had acted inappropriately you said, ‘All I know is the police investigation is come to an end, so the matter is closed.’ But you knew that he’d told that he’d made the secret recordings, so you much more than the fact that the investigation had been closed.

What I knew is that I had, in response to questions from the police, given them that information. This idea that somehow giving information to the police is a cover-up is ridiculous. The police investigated the whole matter. I don’t know what actions they took. I don’t know what evidence they saw. I don’t know who they spoke to. What I do know is there is no more thorough way for the allegations to be investigated than—

Than with the New Zealand police.

…than to have the New Zealand police.

But what we’re looking at here are your public statements when you’re asked about your involvement, and here’s another from this week. You said you couldn’t remember who told you about the taping when it was later revealed, as you know, that your police statement clearly said it was Todd Barclay. Is that really credible to say that you forgot who told you? Can you understand how people just don’t believe you?

Well, I said what I thought. I went and checked the police statement.

No, but you forgot. Do you think people believe that you forgot?

Paddy, did you want to hear what I had to say? I said what I thought. I went and looked at the police statement, and I clarified the matter as soon as I could.

Here’s another one, then. On your way to Parliament this week in the press conference, you said that you reported this to police. You didn’t. They came to you. Why did you say that?

Well, that was a generalised use of the word, but, again, I’m quite happy with the view. I answered questions from the police and in the course of that I confirm—

But you didn’t report it to police. They came to you.

And I didn’t mean to give the impression that I had initiated it, but the police did already have the texts that I sent, quite appropriately, to the election chairman, letting him know what I knew. Then the police came and asked me, and, really, the interview simply confirmed the content of the texts.

The point that I’m getting at here is these all these public statements that kind of don’t match up. It’s like you’re dodging things. It’s like you’re being shifty, Prime Minister. Were you being shifty all this time?

No, I wasn’t. As someone who wasn’t party to this dispute right from the start, but you all knew the people involved, trying to ensure that the confidentiality of the agreement was respected and that the police investigation was accepted and the result of that was accepted as a thorough investigation of the circumstances, after which no charges were laid. And that sense, there wasn’t an issue. If the police investigate it and no charges are laid, then the assertion that criminal activity occurred appears to be wrong, because there was no criminal process that came to any conclusion.

But with all due respect to all of that, and, actually, I agree to some of that, this is about your answers to these questions. And the thing is some of your answers have just been plain wrong. How can anybody trust anything you say on this?

Look, my role in this is clear. It’s on the record. The material I’ve supplied has been investigated by the police. The issue has now been resolved at a political level. Todd Barclay, as a young guy, has made a brave decision to leave politics because of the situation as it’s unfolded. Our job is to resolve what is actually messy personnel issues within our party, do that effectively so we can get on with governing. I’m not a lawyer.

But aside from your own failures here, basically, to own up to your own role, you also sat by and watched Todd Barclay lie publicly; he lied to senior National Party figures, he lied at his reselection. Is that ok with you that you just stand by?

You’re making that assertion. It’s never been established that the alleged incident around the recording actually occurred. In any case, the discussion around—

He told you it happened.

His selection was carried out because of these events, and all the facts were known to his local electorate. In our system there was no charges laid. There was a confidential settlement of the employment dispute in our system. And local electorate is responsible for the selection of the candidate. They were aware of the background and went ahead and selected him.

Do you not feel that you’ve owed voters more on this now that you look back and we look at all these statements? Do you not feel that, ‘I let the voters down here’?

No, I don’t feel that. I feel that these issues have now been resolved. The original dispute is just between two good people who fell out very badly, and it’s actually been an internal personnel matter. It’s been thoroughly investigated.

Why did he have to leave Parliament, then? Why did Todd Barclay have to leave Parliament? Because nothing had changed in all of this that whole time, except you got caught out. That’s all that’s changed.

No, I don’t agree with that. Todd made his own decision about retiring at the election. I think he came to the view it would be difficult to represent his constituents against the background of all the publicity around this and the different interpretations of the facts of the matter. That was his decision.

Do you feel that you’ve let down your own standards — your own standards of credibility, your own integrity — through this?

Well, look, other people will make a decision about that. I’m satisfied—

No, but what do you feel? Do you feel like you’ve let yourself down?

I’m satisfied that in a difficult situation, knowing the personalities better than a lot of people, that this has been handled about as well as it could. It’s sad. No one comes out of this better than before the events occurred. It’s a shame, a real shame. And I feel that more than most people because I know them, because it was my electorate. The matters have now come through to this point where Todd Barclay’s leaving Parliament. My job as the prime minister is to deal with these issues effectively — everyone knows that employment disputes are messy — and get on with governing in the interests of New Zealand. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’ve got a National Party conference this week about an election in three months.

You said then no one’s come out of this, sort of, well, have they?

No, and that’s just because of the basic depth and bitterness of the dispute and the consequences that have flowed from that.

And do you include yourself in that, Prime Minister?

Well, look, it’s much better not to have to deal with these issues. I don’t see any benefit in it at all. But my responsibility as a leader is to make sure they are dealt with, whatever the imperfections of everyone involved, and get on with the job that the public have for us. Because, actually, the public aren’t that interested in our internal employment disputes; what they’re interested in is good government that provides good jobs, incomes and opportunities.

But they’re interested in your integrity, aren’t they?

Well, yes ,they are.

All right, that’s a good place to leave it. Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

Thank you.

 

 

Private funder for Labour’s intern scheme

Matt McCarten says that the Labour intern scheme had a private funder “who thought the scheme was a good idea”.

NZ Herald: Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

A mystery backer funded the volunteer scheme for overseas students working on Labour’s campaign – and even Labour does not know who it was or how much was involved.

Matt McCarten, who set up the scheme and ran it under his “Campaign for Change” organisation, told the Herald it was funded by a “private funder” who thought the scheme was a good idea.

McCarten must have also thought the private funding was a good idea.

He was chief of staff for David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, and ran Labour’s election campaign in Auckland until he quit to balls up the intern scheme last month.

Has he no clue about the requirements of political campaign funding? Or did he think he wouldn’t be found out?

It is understood Labour itself still does not know who that funder is or how much was spent on the programme and it has been left to cover some of the costs of housing the interns at Awataha Marae, although McCarten said he believed the payments were up to date.

This has put Labour in  a very difficult situation, as by association they may end up being responsible for this.

Labour’s General Secretary Andrew Kirton took over the programme this week after concerns about how it was being run and the ability to manage the numbers involved.

He would not comment on the funding issue, saying he was still working on taking care of the interns and “sorting the mess out”.

After that he may have a funding mess to sort out.

Heading into an election campaign this is a terrible diversion for the Labour Party.

Labour will also have to consider whether it needs to declare any contributions to the costs of the programme as a donation.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said it would have to if it was a Labour Party programme, but it probably would not have to if it was a third party campaigning for Labour.

It was advertised as a “Labour Party Fellowship”, involved Labour MPs, and was set up by McCarten while he worked for Labour until May – but was run by his Campaign for Change.

The Campaign for Change change seems to have been a rush job to try to distance the scheme from Labour, but ” third party campaigning” could be very difficult to argue.

Other Labour Party activists and staffers have been names as involved in the scheme.

One could wonder if a more effective sabotage of Labour’s campaign could have been executed, but I think it’s more likely that this was a mix of arrogance and ineptness from McCarten and those directly involved, and a glaring lack of oversight by the Labour Party at best.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the party would disclose anything it was required to and would ensure third parties did as well. However, the party was still working out what funding there was in place.

Awkward.

Interns have given mixed reviews – yesterday one told the Herald that much of the attention had been on the standard of accommodation, but that had not been the problem or the reason Labour officials had to step in. Nor had complaints by individual interns.

“There’s pushback from many who feel it shouldn’t have been shut down so quickly, but I really don’t know how much longer it would have lasted, especially since the whole programme was labelled ‘Labour’, without clear connection to Wellington. It was a ticking time bomb until Wellington found out and shut it down. That’s ultimately why it was shut down – it had Labour’s name all over it, but Wellington had no control over the situation or even knew many details about it.”

So it seems that McCarten was out of control.

Unite’s National Director Mike Treen said the union had taken part in the programme and planned to use the interns for an programme to enrol Unite members, but had not provided any direct funding.

“Matt is ambitious, and where there is a will there is a way is often his attitude. He may have tried to reach too far in this case. We thought there were positives and are a little bit sorry to see it’s all fallen on its face.”

So Treen was also involved. He stood for the Mana Party last election and has links to socialist groups – see  Mana Party and Socialists

It looks like a misconceived attempt at a coup of Labour – see Labour policy coup attempt?

Labour policy coup attempt?

The Labour Party has handled the foreign student intern issue very poorly and they have been justifiably been blasted from all sides.

Leader Andrew Little and general secretary Andrew Kirton have been trying to repair the damage and pile the blame on Matt McCarten, but they should have known exactly what was being done and ensured it was properly managed. They stuffed up badly.

However there are suggestions that McCarten and others involved in the debacle may have been attempting some sort of grand plan to push the party left and effectively execute a policy coup.

Martyn Bradbury has been involved, and as usual he has trouble keeping quiet. He has posted Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear

Watching that meltdown into the shameful scandal it’s being sold as by the media and Politicians desperate to move the attention from Bill English is as ugly as it is typical.

The spluttering shock and hyperventilation of the corporate media at a story that is over a 2 months old right when English was getting screwed seems remarkably good timing for National.

Mostly fortuitous timing I think. National and the media didn’t engineer the Labour intern debacle, and the timing seems to be largely coincidental.

What Labour were doing with these interns happens every election. International Students come here to monitor and experience our elections, what was different about this year was how quickly over subscribed the programme became.

There’s doubt about that claim as documents (see Funding of Labour’s intern scheme) have revealed plans for more interns than have arrived.

The plan to use international students who had worked on campaigns like Jeremy Corbyn’s and Bernie Sander’s were going to be matched by domestic volunteers who were going to target 60 000 Aucklander’s who had enrolled to vote but hadn’t voted and 60 000 Aucklander’s who hadn’t enrolled at all.

They wanted to import the success of Sanders and Corbyn campaigns at getting out young voters (but failed at winning elections).

The campaigns focus was engagement and it had Labour Party sign off and Union buy in.

What happened however was Labour Party HQ Wellington become panicked by how big the Campaign had grown and despite green lighting it started dragging their feet until the thing fell over.

A whispering campaign targeting the funders strangled off money because Labour Party HQ Wellington’s preference is to win over voters who are exisiting voters because the policy platform doesn’t have to be particularly radical for that.

The Newshub documents show “First and Unite unions agreed to contribute $100,000, “white collar unions” committed to $50,000, while Union Trust put up a start-up loan of $25,000″ and the “Council of Trade Unions (CTU) was also to be involved in management of the project” but they have quickly distanced themselves today and claim that they hadn’t committed any funds.

Did the scheme proceed without proper funding in place?

Bradbury:

What Labour didn’t want was a huge campaign to the Left of Labour pressuring them for a Corbyn or Sanders platform.

Labour didn’t want this…

Campaign for Change Manifesto 
1: Free public transport for students and beneficiaries
2: 18 month rent freeze 
3: 5% maximum rent rise
4: $20 per hour minimum wage
5: Artists and Volunteers benefit
6: Free condoms, contraceptive pills and sanitary pads available at schools and family planning
7: Universal Student Allowance for Tertiary students
8: Free public internet
9: Lower voting age to 16
10: Free school lunches 

…so the fear of a successful left wing agenda has once again managed to doom Labour. Just like the candidate selection fiasco and just like the Party List fiasco, this has come down to poor internal management by the Wellington arm of the Party.

While it’s not clear it appears that Campaign for Change tried to force these policies on the Labour Party – in effect trying a policy coup.

Policy development usually takes years and includes input from party members. It is not usually foisted on a party by a small group of activists with revolution in mind.

The perception of political hypocrisy is a mainstream media generated one, the real story is Labour’s fear of a courageous left wing platform.

There was a heap of hypocrisy over student workers working for nothing and living in poor cramped conditions. But that’s not a big deal compared to what Bradbury is suggesting.

Blaming Matt McCarten and leaving him to twist in the wind is expected but it certainly isn’t honourable or justified.

If McCarten and Bradbury and whoever else was involved thought that importing a team of campaign slaves that would somehow magically turn out hundreds of thousands of votes for Labour they are naive or nuts.

If they thought that three months out from the election the Labour Party establishment would change all their policy plans and take on a ten step pathway to political oblivion then all the criticism that can be mustered is justified.

It looks like a policy coup attempt by a bunch of clowns absent any clues or leadership.

Back to the actual party leadership – how Little and Kirton allowed this to even get off the ground I have no idea. I am flabbergasted at how this looks.

 

Roy Morgan June poll

The June 2017 poll from Roy Morgan is ok for most parties,with the notable exception of Labour.

  • National 46.5% (up from 43)
  • Labour 25.5% (down from 28.5)
  • Greens 14% (no change)
  • NZ First 9% (down from 10)
  • Maori Party 1.5% (no change)
  • ACT Party 1% (up from 0.5)
  • United Future 0% (no change)
  • Mana Party 0.5% (down from 1)
  • Conservatives 0% (no change)
  • Other 2% (up from 1.5)

TOP will be included in Other.

It is looking promising for the Maori Party to pick up a list seat or two if they don’t get any more electorates.

National have bounced back from three lows in a row. Perhaps the budget helped.

Labour are back down to about the same level of support as their terrible election result.

BUT: the polling period was 29 May to 11 June so it doesn’t cover the big hiccups for both National and Labour this week.

The next two or three polls will be interesting but it might be a while before we get any more.

http://www.roymorgan.com/~/media/files/findings%20pdf/2017/june/7259-nz-national-voting-intention-june-2017.pdf

More on the Barclay saga

As with many political rifts and public blow-ups there is quite a bit more to the Todd Barclay saga than bad Barclay and Bumbling Bill.

There’s not doubt that Bill English stumbled and fudged, and Barclay did some stupid things over a period of time, but those involved in the employment dispute, making complaints and going to the media are not beyond criticism either.

A number of MPs seem to have been very supportive of Barclay, this week at least. And there has also been support for him out in the provinces.

Glenys Dickson. There is no excuse for the other main person involved, Glenys Dickson, being recorded (possibly illegally), and the lack of honesty and forthrightness from both Barclay and English will understandably have annoyed some people.

Stuff: Former National staffer Glenys Dickson says MP Todd Barclay should have resigned immediately

The woman at the centre of the scandal around ousted National MP Todd Barclay says he should have resigned immediately rather than wait until the election.

Dickson said he should have gone earlier.

“I feel the honourable thing to do perhaps was to just resign immediately.”

She said she felt “quite sad” for Barclay.

“He had a very bright future ahead of him and he just let himself down.

“There actually isn’t any joy in me for going through this process.”

I’m sure it hasn’t been joyful, but she has put quite a lot out into the public domain.

There has also been some fairly strong criticism of Dickson.  Like this comment in social media:

Well, today’s media has really confirmed what I have always thought. My former colleague Glenys Dickson is a really nasty vindictive bitch.

And:

This bitch is not the victim. Karma is a wonderful thing and I hope it bites you right in your fake sanctimonious arse. The truth has a horrible habit of coming out eventually and it will – there are a hell of a lot of people who will make damn sure it does. Tick, tock ………

There’s some ill feeling down this way, both ways.

After the frenzy there has been a very good summary of it all from Tracy Watkins at Stuff:  ‘This is not how we do things’: How National’s composure was shattered by the Todd Barclay affair

Barclay is one of a tight circle of close knit MPs in the National caucus – a group that includes the senior whip Jami-Lee Ross, Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, and back benchers including Paul Foster Bell and Brett Hudson.

Mentors like his former boss, Hekia Parata, were counselling him that his position had become untenable.

His friends were shattered. And they were deeply, deeply angry.

Barclay, 27, inherited the Clutha-Southland seat from English.  They are chalk and cheese. So it’s not surprising Barclay immediately rubbed up English’s old staff the wrong way.

Here is where accounts differ of who was most to blame.

But where there is agreement is Barclay’s refusal to follow the advice being offered him.

Depending on who you ask,  it was either youth and inexperience that did for him, or a combination of arrogance and narcissism. People hold deeply polarising views about the young MP.

Even now, feelings run high. Party insiders spoken to by Stuff say they were  “disgusted” on Barclay’s behalf at the way people were briefing against him.

“Disgusting” is a word used by more than one Nat. But the sympathy is not universal; another insider spoken to by Stuff says Barclay treated his staff “appallingly”.

So there are strong feelings on both sides.

It will be difficult repairing the damage in Clutha-Souhland.

And time will tell how much this has damaged National.

Peters versus English on Barclay

Winston Peters smells political blood and tries a few more cuts against Bill English in this press release:  Playing Dumb Won’t Save English Over Barclay Debacle

Failure to answer questions will not save the Prime Minister.

“The facts are there: When asked about the Barclay Debacle in Parliament yesterday Mr English said:  ‘I was absolutely no party to that, and I do not know what the dispute was or how it was settled’.

“However, in a text message to former National Party Clutha-Southland electorate chair, Stuart Davie, Mr English wrote: ‘Glenys settlement large to avoid potential legal action. Had to be part paid by prime minister’s budget. Everyone unhappy’.

“Mr English confirmed in the text he knew all about the special top-up settlement from the National Party Leader’s Office.

“He has not explained why cash was paid from the National Party Leader’s Office funds despite the employer, Parliamentary Services, paying a dispute settlement.

“Why was the extra money necessary?

“Mr English refuses to say, but it was paid to cover up a criminal act, which Mr English knew about.

“Questions continue to hover around the Prime Minister over his lack of honesty and complicity in the cover up over the secret recordings in the Clutha-Southland electorate office.

“He is refusing to answer, hiding behind parliamentary rules. He’s claiming he is not responsible as a Minister, because he was wearing another hat, of an ordinary MP – that’s a new one. He’s condemned by his own words.”

That’s mild compared to what he has said directly to media.

NZ Herald:  ‘He’s got to go’: Winston Peters calls for Prime Minister to resign

“He’s got to go, Mr English. He’s got to stand down, just like Barclay. He misled the media, he misled the House in every respect he is in serious breach of his responsibilities and duties,” Peters said to media before entering question time that saw further questions about English’s actions.

Asked if English had lied, Peters said there was no other possible conclusion. Despite calling for English’s resignation, Peters did not rule out going into Coalition with National after the September 23 election.

He said he had laid two privileges complaints against English, claiming he misled Parliament about whether he knew about the allegations against Barclay. In question time, Peters challenged English to release his phone records to prove he hadn’t been involved in the dispute than already disclosed.

Winston is no stranger to over-egging so it’s difficult to know whether there is any significant merit to his privileges complaints.

And if he had a percent of vote for every time he has called on someone to resign he would be a virtual dictator.

 

 

Labour allege English misled Parliament

Not surprisingly Labour is continuing their pressure on Bill English over his responses to the Todd Barclay isssue.

For some reason Grant Robertson is fronting this:  Bill English misleads Parliament on Police statement

Bill English’s attempt to restore his damaged credibility over the Todd Barclay affair has backfired after his claim to have “reported” Mr Barclay’s actions to Police has proven not to be true, says Labour MP for Wellington Central Grant Robertson.

“Yesterday in Parliament, Bill English claimed in response to a question from Andrew Little that he had ‘reported to Police’ the information he had that Todd Barclay had recorded his staff member. In fact Mr English had only spoken to Police after they had requested him to do so when they became aware that he had this information.

“Today, Mr English has been forced to admit that he did not initiate contact with Police. In Parliament Gerry Brownlee speaking on the Prime Minister’s behalf said he had been ‘imprecise’ in his answer.

“That is not good enough, and I am writing to the Speaker today to ask him to assess if there has been a breach of Parliamentary privilege.

“Bill English was trying to make out to the New Zealand public that he had done the right thing when he found out what Todd Barclay had done. That is not true. He only spoke to Police because they requested it.

“This fits with the whole way Bill English has dealt with this matter. He not told New Zealanders the truth about his involvement, and he has allowed Todd Barclay to mislead the public as well.

“New Zealanders need to know that their leaders will act honestly, ethically and with integrity. Bill English has failed that test,” says Grant Robertson.

This seems a fairly lame attempt to me, playing with semantics. Surely there are stronger grounds with which to hold English to account.

Funding of Labour’s intern scheme

Labour still have questions to answer about why they have deceived and not been upfront about the degree of their involvement in the intern scheme fiasco.

Andrew Little and general secretary Andrew Kirton seem to have tried to play down the degree of party involvement but the whole thing has had Labour written all over it.

Newshub has obtained documents showing funding plans – Union money behind Labour’s botched intern scheme

Newshub has obtained internal documents outlining Labour’s ambitious plans to put foreign students to work on its campaign.

The plan shows the party needed to find $270,000 in funding to pull it off and was banking on unions to fund a lot of it.

The budgeting was based on 100 students staying for an average of eight weeks.

Yesterday Matt McCarten stated “The programme was extremely popular and quickly became oversubscribed. The scale of the programme is now greater than I can manage, and I am aware of issues that this has caused.”

It was reported there were about 85 interns, less than that budgeted for.

The documents show First and Unite unions agreed to contribute $100,000, “white collar unions” – likely the likes of the PSA – committed to $50,000, while Union Trust put up a start-up loan of $25,000.

Would this have been declared in Labour’s donation returns?

The plan was to get E tū and “other appropriate unions” on board too.

The Council of Trade Unions was also to be involved in management of the project, and while Labour has been distancing itself from the project, the documents explicitly states: “The programme and certification is the responsibility of Labour.”

It was clearly a Labour plan.

A less expensive plan was also outlined, in which half of the students would be billeted.

The cost of that came in at $148,000 plus operational costs. It would have required less of a fundraising drive, but still relied on union funding.

The scheme was already under way, there must have been some funds raised and used.

On Thursday, Labour leader Andrew Little fronted up about the party’s intern scheme which got “wildly out of control”.

So it must have been poorly managed.

“I have to say it is embarrassing for the party, of course it is,” he conceded.

“I am disappointed that they’ve been let down, but right now the priority is to fix that up, look after them, make sure they’re okay and work out what do from there.”

One priority is for Little to be up front about Labour’s involvement, and his knowledge of it. And Andrew Kirton.

For such a large and elaborate scheme with Labour labels everywhere the party leadership and party management must have been well aware of it. They surely must have approved it.

Some questions that deserve answers:

Have any Labour people worked on the intern scheme while being paid by Parliamentary Services?

Has Labour breached the Electoral Act by not having authorisation statements on the scheme’s Facebook page and Twitter account? Both seem to have now been pulled, but they had no sign authorisation statements.

One question that has been answered emphatically is McCarten’s campaign skills. Appalling.

Update: Andrew Kirton is being interviewed on RNZ.

He said he first knew about the project in April. Espiner is challenging him on that.

Kirton says he hasn’t seen the document until it was just published by Newshub.

Kirton is in evasion overdrive, trying to dump everything on McCarten.

Kirton says that “it was Matt’s programme that he took over when he left the party”.  So it was already a Labour party project.

He keeps diverting to ‘as soon as we were aware of the problems we stepped in to sort things out”.

Asked if the spending was going to be counted in their election  spending he said the hadn’t thought about that. Remarkable.

Kirton’s responses in that interview need a lot more scrutiny.

Intern schemes using international activists are common.

Trying to pretend a scheme has nothing to do with Labour is crazy.

McCarten, Kirton and Little all have to take responsibility for this mess.

Robertson versus English

Following a succession of attacks on Bill English in Question Time yesterday Grant Robertson had a go in the General Debate.

This may sum up Labour’s reaction to the Todd Barclay saga.

GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): For the last 18 months, the current Prime Minister of New Zealand has been at the centre of a cover-up. He has known that one of his MPs covertly taped one of his staff members, and that that MP went on to mislead, dissemble, and not tell the truth about what had happened.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand knew this. He knew it from the beginning of last year, and he has done nothing to bring that member of Parliament to account. What is more, when the Prime Minister of New Zealand has been asked directly about what he knew about what Todd Barclay had done, he has not told the truth.

On 1 March last year Bill English was asked on the radio what he knew of the reasons for staff resignations in Todd Barclay’s office, and whether he had personally spoken to any of those staff. Mr English answered: “No.” That was on 1 March.

On 21 February, we now know that the Prime Minister of New Zealand texted the then electorate chair of the National Party in Clutha-Southland to tell that man, Stuart Davie, that Todd Barclay had indeed recorded his staff member in a covert manner.

The Prime Minister has not told New Zealanders the truth about what happened in Todd Barclay’s office. He has dissembled, he has avoided answering questions, and he has failed the basic test of a Prime Minister in this country.

Honesty is the very least that New Zealanders can expect from their politicians, and all the more so from their Prime Minister, and Mr English has completely failed on that account.

When he was given the opportunity to talk to police in April last year, he told them that Mr Barclay had indeed told him that he had recorded Glenys Dickson. When he then had the opportunity to see that document, that police statement, released as part of an overall police Official Information Act release, Mr English made sure his statement was withheld.

This is not a Prime Minister who wants to be open or transparent. This is not a Prime Minister who was being honest with New Zealanders about what has happened.

It makes no difference that Todd Barclay has left today. This is about Bill English and Bill English’s credibility to be Prime Minister, because for politicians it is not about what happens when something is exposed by the media and what you then do. It is about whether you do the right thing at the time that you know about it.

It is not a sign of credibility to come forward only when you are being exposed by the media.

It is not a sign of credibility or leadership to change your mind within 3 or 4 hours yesterday because you worked out you had been caught out and found out. Those are not the actions of a real leader or a Prime Minister, and they are not the actions of someone whom New Zealanders can trust.

The Prime Minister has broken the basic bond with New Zealand people of the trust that they should have in him. He did not tell the truth about what he knew. He stood by an MP who has told lies.

He has allowed a staff member of 16 years to be bullied and covertly recorded out of her job, and even yesterday he wanted the issue to go away instead of actually fronting up to New Zealanders about what he and his protégé have done.

This is not a leader. This is a person who has become Prime Minister, and now that he is in that role he is cruelly exposed to New Zealanders as someone who does not have the fundamental capabilities and attributes that they need in their Prime Minister—that is, that he would be straight-up with New Zealanders, that he would show leadership and deal with people who break the law, rather than try to cover it up.

The last 24 hours have taught New Zealanders a lesson. This is a squalid shambles, as the Fairfax editorial said today, and, as other commentators have said, this has now cast great doubt on Bill English’s credibility.

At this election it will be about a contest between a leader in Andrew Little who is straight-up and tells New Zealanders how it is, and Bill English, who has lied on behalf of his MP.

Rebooting Clutha-Southland campaign

Clutha-Southland is one of National’s safest electorates so it would be unthinkable that they can lose it, but they have to quickly come up with a credible candidate to replace Todd Barclay.

They have just suffered a very bitter internal dispute with an outcome that will have greatly displeased some of the party members, so the candidate selection could be challenging.

Simon Flood, the candidate who lost to Barclay last year, could try again but that would probably be contentious.

Ideally they need to come up with someone who both factions can live with – because they may have to live them for many years.

Winning the candidacy for Clutha-Southland is an opportunity for a job in Parliament potentially for decades, as long as you don’t cock up like Barclay did.

Eileen Goodwin broke the story of staff strife in Clutha-Southland last year. She writes in the ODT: Fears of damage to PM

The Otago Daily Times revealed last March that Mrs Dickson’s resignation involved claims of a secret recording.

A new selection process will begin ”very shortly” in the Clutha-Southland electorate after MP Todd Barclay’s announcement yesterday he is quitting Parliament, the National Party says.

Yesterday, National Party general manager Greg Hamilton said the party board would consider the matter soon so the new selection could start.

Mr Barclay was re-selected last December after a bitter contest.

A group of party members who believed he needed to go backed a challenge from former funds manager Simon Flood.

Mr Hamilton confirmed the party board would consider a complaint from a group of members about the selection contest. It is understood to involve claims of delegate stacking to skew the outcome.

So National will be investigating a complaint about the last selection process at the same as a new selection process.

Party member Maeva Smith, a friend of Mrs Dickson, said the party needed to take some responsibility for its handling of the problem. ”We didn’t want any damage to [Mr English] – that’s something that we didn’t want. We’ve got a great deal of respect for him.”

Significant damage has been done.

Mrs Smith said she would be working on the campaign to elect Mr English as prime minister in September. She hoped the electorate, which has up to 1500 party members, would rebuild.

”In some ways it’s cleared the air”.

For those who wanted Barclay dumped it may have, but it’s hard to imagine everyone comes out of this happy to move on.

An Otago Daily Times reporter who visited Gore yesterday to speak to people in the street said the feeling was that Mr Barclay’s decision to stand down was correct.

One woman said there was a general feeling around Gore that Mr Barclay was too young for the role.

RNZ has reported similar sentiments from elsewhere in the electorate.

Regardless, the situation now is that Barclay is not standing and National have to find someone else for a plum electorate which could be virtually for life.

Once the selection has been made one plus for National is that as the saying goes, a swede could win the electorate as long as it was blue.