John Armstrong isn’t talking about himself, of course
Norman asked Key how many times he had spoken to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater or sent a text.
“None in my capacity as Prime Minister,” Key replied. That wording was very deliberate.
Key’s argument is that any communications with Slater occurred in his capacity as leader of the National Party, not as Prime Minister. The distinction is important. It allows Key to wriggle free from his detractors, even if it is not very becoming.
As Prime Minister, Key is accountable to Parliament for his Government’s actions. He is not accountable to Parliament for the actions and behaviour of the National Party. Any Opposition question straying into the latter’s territory must be ruled out of order by Parliament’s Speaker.
Labour’s Chris Hipkins, however, sought to close off this escape route by asking whether Key had ever phoned or sent a text to Slater on his Government-supplied phone.
“I am not 100 per cent sure of that,” Key replied to mocking laughter from the Opposition benches.
But Winston Peters suggested there was something “particularly disturbing” about the Prime Minister’s first reply. If the Speaker, David Carter, allowed it to stand there would be no accountability to Parliament at all. Carter dismissed Peters’ argument, but later agreed to have another look at transcripts of the question time exchange.
The question to be resolved is whether Key should get away with determining which particular hat he is or was wearing at which particular time, and more so when the hat-switching is designed to get him off a very uncomfortable political hook.
I can’t recall the PM contacting me, ever, as the PM. ¬†As in, what he wanted to communicate about had to do specifically with the office of the Prime Minister or prime ministerial duties, responsibilities or needs. ¬† Read more »