Annette King versus ‘the Prime Minister’

Annette King targeted John Key’s hair pulling in Question Time. Bill English responded on behalf of the Prime Minister (who is still in the Middle East).

Hon ANNETTE KING to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “There’s always a risk with third-term Governments that they get arrogant. There’s always a risk that they veer off into a space they haven’t been, and start surprising their supporters”?

Jo Muir’s on-the-fly summary at Beehive Live:

English is responding on behalf of John Key and says yes, based on his observation, he agrees.

King is asking whether Key’s behaviour was appropriate in terms of the hair pulling incident.

English says the PM apologised and long before it was reported in the media.

King has just mentioned Key’s comments of “horsing around” and someone on opposition benches is neighing like a horse.

That’s unlikely to be someone who has been criticising Key for childish behaviour.

English is defending the PM saying that his “inappropriate” behaviour is particularly disappointing considering it’s unusual for him to act like that.

Winston Peters is asking how Key explains the numerous photos of him stroking the hair of young girls and what psychological behaviour that is?

English isn’t impressed and is dismissing the question.

Peters is asking, putting the Auckland cafe incident aside, has Key apologised for all the other times he’s stroked hair inappropriately.

English says if anyone felt he had behaved inappropriately they have means to complain.

Transcript:

[Sitting date: 28 April 2015. Volume:704;Page:2. Text is subject to correction.]

2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that “There’s always a risk with third-term Governments that they get arrogant. There’s always a risk that they veer off into a space they haven’t been, and start surprising their supporters”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes. It was an observation based on watching the third term of the previous Labour Government.

Hon Annette King : Was pulling the hair of a woman worker in a cafe arrogant, veering off into a space where he had not been before, or just totally inappropriate behaviour?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : As the Prime Minister has acknowledged, it was totally inappropriate behaviour, for which he apologised to the young woman concerned and, I might say, well before public attention was drawn to the matter.

Hon Annette King : Does he think that in modern New Zealand it is OK to describe repeated and unwelcome pulling of a young woman’s hair as banter, horseplay, joking around; if not, why has he attempted to minimise his weird behaviour?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The Prime Minister has not attempted to minimise the behaviour; he has acknowledged the inappropriate nature of that behaviour and dealt with the issue when it was drawn to his attention.

Hon Annette King : Was the National Party warned of his hair-pulling behaviour before his actions became public; if so, when?

Mr SPEAKER : In as far as there is prime ministerial responsibility, the Hon Bill English.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Of course the Prime Minister had an indication about the behaviour, because the young woman raised it with him and he apologised to her. I might say that the Prime Minister has, through intensive interaction with the public over a long period as leader of the National Party and as the Prime Minister, observed almost always the highest standards of appropriate behaviour.

Hon Annette King : Was there any communication between his office or his staff and Rachel Glucina or the cafe owners following the breaking of this story?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I have not had the opportunity to establish whether or not that is the case, so I simply cannot answer that question.

Hon Annette King : Does he stand by his statement that he “needs to be better at reading the tea leaves” when making decisions about how he will behave in public ; if so, how often does he use tea leaves for advice?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes, the Prime Minister does stand by that statement. I might say that part of the Prime Minister’s disappointment at these events—

Grant Robertson : He did it!

Hon BILL ENGLISH : —and the inappropriateness of his behaviour is that in almost every other respect his interaction with New Zealanders is positive.

Hon Annette King : What is the difference between his behaviour and that of Aaron Gilmore’s?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : They are different circumstances and have both been dealt with appropriately.

Hon Annette King : I seek leave to table a Facebook post on the National Party’s website—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need any further assistance. It is available to all members if they want to look for it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Putting aside the numerous Parnell cafe incidents, how does the Acting Prime Minister explain the countless photographs of Mr Key stroking young girls’ hair, and what psychological condition is that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I reject all the imputations of that question. The Prime Minister has a track record that I know Opposition parties resent, and that is of very positive interaction with the whole range of the New Zealand community. In this case he has acknowledged the inappropriateness of his behaviour and dealt with it well before it came to public attention because, in his view, if the young woman felt that way about the behaviour, then it clearly was not appropriate and he had to deal with it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Putting aside the Parnell cafe case, what about the numerous other cases where he has not apologised at all? How does he explain that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Almost without exception the interactions the Prime Minister has with the New Zealand public are not the subject of complaints. In fact, more than any other Prime Minister, he is open to those interactions and they are positive. If anyone felt that he had acted inappropriately, they are able to raise that issue and, I think, as indicated by this incident, the Prime Minister will take responsibility for his behaviour and apologise accordingly.

Hon Annette King : Has the Deputy Prime Minister ever advised him that he undertakes such behaviour in public?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Very generally, the Prime Minister has been able to conduct a very positive relationship with the broader public without the benefit of advice from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Key speaks on his hair problems

John Key was interviewed on The Nation on Saturday and was asked by Patrick Gower about the hair pulling issue.

KeyTheNationApril15

Gower: Moving now to another issue that has been dominating things and that is of course the ponytail…

Key: Yep.

Gower: …incident. Some people back at home are saying “Hey what’s all the fuss about? You know can’t we have any fun any more?”

Key: Oh yeah but look I’ve tried to give a bit of context around what actually happened there but um and I accept that that will be some people’s view, but there’s also another view, ah which is I should have been much better at reading that situation more carefully.

I completely failed to read that situation correctly, um I actually regret that very deeply. I regret it for the young woman in question.

Um yes I was kidding around and didn’t mean any offence um but that shows you the danger of you know um undertaking those sort of you know kinda pranks if you like that they can be misinterpreted and misread.

Gower: So what do you say to those people who say ‘oh it’s all a fuss about nothing’ – that they’re wrong obviously?

Key: No I’m just saying that you know I have to take responsibility for my own actions. Um I completely misread the situation, clearly otherwise it you know wouldn’t have happened.  Um and I just didn’t see it for what it was, um I did see it in a very light hearted nature, I’ve got a very casual relationship with the people there. We do have lots of fun. Um but…

Gower: Here’s the way of looking at it isn’t it, I mean how would you like it if someone did it to you.

Key: And that’s of course that’s right that’s the counter argument, I mean looking…

Gower: How would you lie it if someone pulled your hair?

Key: Well, ah, if it was in the context of the way that it happened there I would see it in that context, but I absolutely one hundred percent appreciate um in hindsight she didn’t and I should have read that situation more accurately.

Gower: Yeah because it’s not in the context of what happened there is it, the context really is about power. You’re the Prime Minister. She’s someone working in her job.

Key: Yes I understand that’s some people’s argument. There’s a counter argument…

Gower: Do you feel that you abused your power?

Key: Well I was going to say there’s a counter argument for that and I think yeah look by nature I’m a pretty casual person, and I do kid around and have a bit of fun, and I think one of the things that look you know that, look the majority of staff there have enjoyed is the fact that…

Gower: I guess the question is this…

Key: …the opposite, rather than the power sort of thing and me being a bit stuck up I’ve, stuck up I’ve been mucking around and having a bit of fun, now you know ok look in the end I got that wrong and I have to accept that.

Gower: Yeah and when you when you accept that you got it wrong, do you accept that you misused your power?

Key: No because I didn’t intend to do that, it was the opposite, I intended to try and be in a much more informal sort of setting so that I put people at ease and we could have a bit of a laugh and a bit of fun so it’s really the opposite.

But I accept that that’s an interpretation someone could get.

Gower: Sure and on that I mean do you feel um like you’ve let yourself down?

Key: Yes but I also have to take responsibility here for my own actions.

Gower: Some people will say this, and you know I have to ask, why the hair pulling?

Key: Well I mean look it was all just part of you know a a bit of jocularity was happening but you know it’s a very difficult thing, in the cold light of day when you look at these things, some things that are you know a bit of kidding round at the time, don’t seem that funny later on when they’re reflected on in the cold light of day. I see that and accept that now.

I think this is about as much as Key could do to front up, accept responsibility and limit the damage. It seems genuine enough to me (but some will never see any explanation from Key as genuine, and this is reflected in some social media comments).

He says he understands the issues and the criticisms and accepts their validity.

He has not questioned or challenged the waitress’ account of what happened at all. He has not blamed or criticised her at all.

The only thing not answered is why Key thought that puling hair was ok and would be acceptable in the first place. It still looks  odd for an adult to be pulling hair in public.

Key accepts it’s not a good look but doesn’t explain why there was any hair pulling. Perhaps he has no explanation, doesn’t know why. It’s not normal no matter how jocular the situation might be – in fact to many people it’s decidedly abnormal.

That aside Key has probably done as much as he can to cop the flak and deal with and deflate the issue.

It’s not going to fade away completely, this is the sort of stuff-up that will be added to the list of misdemeanours and will be  thrown at him for the rest of his political career by opponents. Especially by social media activists.

But Key has done what was necessary to front up and to minimise the damage. It’s impossible to measure how much damage has been done, and how much it will impact on his political future.

Source: Interview: Prime Minister John Key

Key “didn’t deliberately intend” to abuse power

It’s been established as un-denied fact that Prime Minister John Key pulled a cafe waitress’ hair on a number of occasions.

Key has apologised for it, and has said it was “very very silly”, but has denied he misused his power. He has said it was the opposite, he was trying to put people at ease in an informal setting.

From a Thursday report on 3 News – Key’s hair-pulling raises behaviour questions:

Mr Key has publicly apologised to waitress Amanda Bailey, 26, for persistently pulling her ponytail while visiting her Auckland cafe over the last six months.

The embarrassing apology was prompted by Ms Bailey’s contribution to the left-wing Daily Blog website yesterday, in which she accused the Prime Minister of harassing and bullying her.

At first she believed it was playful – Mr Key sometimes pretended it was his wife Bronagh who did it – but she then informed Mr Key’s security that one day she would snap and punch him in the face.

Mr Key mocked her when she raised it personally with him and it left her crying frustrated tears because she felt tormented and powerless, she said.

When quizzed by reporters at Los Angeles Airport, Mr Key said he had been joking around with the waitress.

“There’s always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that’s all there really was to it,” he said.

The media has had limited access to Key as he was travelling to Gallipoli. On Friday 3 News reported:

Mr Key admitted misreading the situation and says he understands why it’s causing concern.

“When these things play out later on they look a lot more serious, people take other readings from it and I understand that and I take responsibility for that,” he told reporters when he arrived in Turkey today for the Gallipoli centenary commemorations.

“I’m pretty casual and laid-back … playing along a little bit, and that’s very, very silly on my part… I should have read the situation more accurately. I’ll learn from the experience.”

So he has conceded he was at fault and it had been “very, very silly on my part”.

It doesn’t appear to be online but on 3 News last night Key explained further, in response to a question from Patrick Gower:

Gower: When you accepted you got it wrong, do you accept that you misused your power?

Key: No, because I didn’t deliberately intend to do that, it was the opposite. I intended to try and be in a much more informal sort of setting so that I put people at ease and we could have a bit of a laugh and have a bit of fun so it’s really opposite.

But I accept that that’s an interpretation that someone could get.

News reader: Key said in the cold light of day he accepts what he thought what was kidding around did not seem that funny later.

This may be played on The Nation this morning.

There have been many claims of abuse of power, sexual abuse, misogyny and bullying.These seem to be overstating the situation at best.

The effect of Key’s actions is in part of bullying but his explanation sounds reasonable, bullying wasn’t his intent, it was inadvertent. He was trying  to be an ordinary person goofing around.

But as Prime Minister he can never be seen totally as an ordinary person. Key will always have a non-ordinary status, no matter how hard he tried to be seen otherwise.

And he accepts that he went too far, and accepts that what he did could be seen as an abuse of power.

As has been said before one person’s buffoon can be another person’s arsehole, and a recidivist buffoon can become an arsehole.

Key appears to get this.

This has been embarrassing for Key, it has caused some people to see him differently and it may have an ongoing impact on him and his popularity.

It’s an easy avenue of ridicule and it’s certain be used as a persistent means of attack by some opponents.

But unless something else is revealed, or if court action succeeds (experts have said that’s unlikely), it shouldn’t do any further damage.

Another story has emerged out of this, how some left wing activists have played the story. That will be covered in the next post.

Herald and Whale Oil defend Glucina

NZ Herald and Cameron Slater are unusual allies their support of Rachel Glucina and her handling of the waitress at the centre of John Key’s hair pulling.

And they are fairly lonely in trying to defend what looks like some very shoddy journalism, something Slater usually hammers the Herald for – in this case journalist connections seem to take precedence over consistency.

The Herald had a torrid day on social media yesterday, battered by their handling of the hair pulling issue in Waitress: ‘I felt NZ should know’ where via PR consultant and Herald gossip columnist Rachel Glucina they dump heavily on the waitress.

This had been promoted by editor Shayne Currie:

Exclusive: In tomorrow’s , meet the waitress at the centre of – and she explains why she went public

Attention was given to the blurred lines between the roles of ‘PR consultant’ and ‘Herald reporter’. There was strong criticism on social media and by other journalists, including suggestions it warranted a Press Council complaint.

Brent Edwards from Radio New Zealand tweeted:

@nzherald have confirmed a breach of journalistic standards in What will it do next?

More in ‘Strong stuff’: the media’s role in #ponytailgate

The Herald went onto a somersault mode of damage control.

Herald statement

Shayne Currie, Editor of NZ Herald has released a statement on how the story was reported:

That’s at the bottom of Waitress: ‘I felt NZ should know’ .

Except that the currently published statement is apparently the fourth and significantly edited version as the Herald desperately and obviously too quickly tried to stem the criticism.

Despite all this Whale Oil seems to be trying to paint the best possible picture of the Herald coverage and Glucina.

Whale Oil’s Face of the Day

While Cameron Slater frequently and strongly criticises the Herald he seems to still have some friendly journalists. Or thinks he does. He has teamed up with Glucina on stories in the past.

“Just a bit of fun” – buffoon or arsehole?

John Key has apparently repeated claiming the hair pulling was “just a bit of fun” (reported on the Paul Henry Show).

He has already been quoted saying it was “horsing around”, an unfortunate description of pony tail pulling.

At Kiwiblog, where there has been a lot of excuse making for Key’s behaviour, Weihana suggested:

Seems more buffoon-ish than arsehole-ish.

One of Key’s traits is being a bit buffoonish, and some find it endearing.

The problem here is that one person’s buffoon can be another person’s arsehole.

It’s not uncommon for bullies to claim they are just having a bit of fun, just horsing around, just being a buffoon. However the targets of their attention may think otherwise, and often do.

The victim of Key’s hair pulling has made it clear she didn’t think it was fun.

And buffoons who persist can become arseholes to those on the receiving end.

This is something that Key hasn’t yet shown he understands. And neither apparently do his defenders.

I think this is something Key has to address. If he does he could repair some of the damage. If he doesn’t the damage could and probably will deepen.

Many people are ‘weirded out” by what Key seems to have a habit of doing. If they remain weirded out then Key’s chances of being kicked out by voters will grow.

Some people say this issue will quickly fade away. It will, partially. But there’s a very good chance it will be a nail or two in National’s last term coffin.

McCready meddling

‘Serial litigant’ Graham McCready is again trying to meddle in things that really aren’t his business. When I heard Martyn Bradbury was involved in the hair pulling revelations I groaned. McCready jumping on the attention seeking bandwagon is uber-groan territory.

Newstalk ZB report:

Private prosecutor Graham McCready is now filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, and plans to take it to court, claiming it was sexual harassment.

“This incident is too important,” McCready said, “too much in the public interest for that not to happen.”

“It could distress her but we’ll deal with that as we go along.”

Too important for whom?

Too bad if it distresses ‘her’, this looks all about an opportunist attention seeker.

Taking it to the Human Rights Commission would be highly ironic considering how McCready seems to be ignoring the victim’s rights and is promoting his own interests.

Claiming it was sexual harassment seems out of order to me. The incidents happened in a very public place, with his wife present. I don’t see any sexual connotations.

McCready’s meddling is likely to do far more harm than good, especially to the victim of the hair pulling. It loks like selfish grandstanding and an attempt at a political hit job.

McCready is making a circus out of something that has already blown up far more than is warranted.

The timing, and things get messy

The timing of the hair pulling story has been criticised, but that’s nonsense. So what if someone timed it for maximum attention? That’s hardly uncommon.

Sure it could be awkward for Key to deal with the flak while travelling around the world. But it also gets him out of most of the firing line. By the time he gets back to New Zealand the story will have at least calmed down a bit.

Perhaps the story could have been put out in the news vacuum over Easter. That might have reduced attention. Or it could have festered and grown because there wasn’t much else to be indignant about.

The timing is a non-issue.

While the victim is a victim if unwanted physical attention she is a victim. That isn’t diminished by the way the story plays out.

I think she was unwise using The Daily Blog and Martyn Bradbury as her medium for her revelation. It guaranteed a highly charged partisan reaction before any facts were known or confirmed. It’s a side issue but it’s an issue.

The waitress used Bradbury – but Bradbury has used her too. I hope he warned her about the inevitability that her anonymity wouldn’t last long. I hope he warned her how she would be labelled politically by using him.

It didn’t take the Herald long to out the identity of the waitress and her workplace – see Waitress: ‘I felt NZ should know’.

She has complained about this coverage in detail at The Daily Blog – UPDATE: The Prime Minister and the Waitress Part 2 – Dirty Politics?

She says she was aware of some of the risks but she has been clobbered.

She claims that her employers and Rachel colluded to dupe her into an interview. But retracting something from the media is futile. Especially once it’s been published.

Out of respect for my employers, and what seemed like their genuine concern for my well-being along with the future of their business (a business doing good things which I fully support), they introduced me to Rachel, by name as the employee behind the story, and Rachel said she would put together a statement for us to proof.

As we waited for Rachel to e-mail the draft proof one of my employers read aloud to the other Rachel’s e-mail address. It began… RACHEL.GLUCINA and alarm bells went off. Sounded familiar, and I felt sick to my stomach – more than you’d ever imagine, a feeling I simply could not ignore.

Rachel’s story changed. RAPIDLY. Now she couldn’t possibly supply us with a proof because she would lose her job. She was absolutely acting in her capacity as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and claimed that my employers had known all along, which they denied.

I made it absolutely clear that all and any comments I had made were given under false pretences, not to mention completely out of context, and questioned whether her supposed story would still be published if I withheld my permission.

Rachel simply responded that she would come back to us and read to us what was to be published, although she had no control over editors and sub-editors, and that she had to get in touch with the Prime Ministers office, and then they quickly ended the conversation. I later contacted my employers reiterating that I revoked any permission to use my photo or comments for any press release, and my disappointment that I had been mislead to such a gross degree whilst having my identity knowingly confirmed with the New Zealand Herald at the same time.

If she’s correct this is a bad look for the Herald. More collateral damage. What the hell were her employers and Glucina up to?

This could get very messy.

When the Prime Minister is involved behaviour has to be carefully considered. He stuffed up.

When the Prime Minister is involved the media and the victim get embroiled as well in what now looks like becoming substantial side issues.

While I think Key’s behaviour was poor it wasn’t dirty. But it’s triggered what could be a bloody big dirty mess.