Rob Hosking on the government: “Sloppy, incompetent and shifty”

Shifty Bill


Enough bashing of Labour for the day, here is what Rob Hosking at NBR had to say about the government and Bill English’s handling of the Barclay issue:

There is an argument being run by some of the government’s defenders that few New Zealanders know, or care, who departing Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay is.

The details of why he will now not be standing have gone over people’s heads, this argument goes – and, anyway, it’s all rather boring.

In a sentence? He fell out with his electorate staff, secretly recorded them, may or may not have lied about it, and refused to talk to the Police.

Oh, and the fact the whole matter blew up when the country is distracted by, first, the Lions tour and, now, the America’s Cup win, means few people are bothered by the intricacies of who said what to who, when, and who knew what about which tape recording, which may or may not have existed.

They’ve got a point.

Not a large point, admittedly – and it’s a point that misses a much larger one.

To put this in a much shorter sentence: It made the government look bad. By “bad,” I mean sloppy, incompetent and shifty.

Say what you like about John Key – and most of us have, this being a democracy – he projected an aura of competence even if it looked as if the scenery was falling down around him.

Because of that aura, even when he looked shifty (and he did, on numerous occasions) he looked as if he knew what he was doing.

And he also got away with it because – as discussed here last week – part of the Key package, right from the start, included the downside that he was clearly a bit of a wide-boy at times.

Caucus bought the bullshit from Bill’s team, they are now reaping what they have sown.

Neither Mr Key nor Mr English have problems with their trousers. Mr Key, though, was clearly a bit of a chancer, and that was accepted as part of the package voters got with him.

Mr English is a rather different character, and he has two disadvantages.

One is that different persona: What this column has previously called his “shrugs of frankness” – and some others have called gaffes – have been an important part of his political style over his time as finance minister.

He has had close to 30 years in politics, so it is not as though he can’t dissemble: rather it doesn’t come naturally and, when he does so, he doesn’t do it very well.

In fact, one of the comments he has been most pilloried for isn’t really dissembling at all: this being the repeated observation that even though Todd Barclay told him there was a secret tape of his staffer Glenys Dickson, Mr English hasn’t heard it and isn’t sure it even exists.

It’s been much mocked, this position. Yet all Mr English is saying here, in a roundabout way, is he doesn’t entirely trust Mr Barclay’s word.

It’s not, under the circumstances, an unreasonable position to take. 

It is unreasonable when you’ve changed your story five times.




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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.