Labour don’t understand that nobody cares when Key lies

Vernon Small:

Labour leader Andrew Little may have been overshadowed in the State of the Nation speech-off, but he scored an important moral victory proving Prime Minister John Key wrong over when his office tipped off National about allegations swirling around Sabin.

Whether Key knew at the end of November – or early or late in December – makes little material difference, other than to highlight his slip-sliding dates.

And Labour might want to think again about the efforts it puts into trying to prove Key wrong, or loose with the facts.

The Ian Fletcher appointment aside, it has hardly been a big vote winner in the past; in the case of Kim Dotcom’s big reveal and the dirty politics accusations, quite the reverse.

Despite what will hopefully not become known as “date gate”, there is still no proof National knew of Sabin’s issues earlier than the crucial political dates that would harm Key.

They are Sabin’s re-selection as a candidate, the September 20 general election and most problematic of all, October 22 – the day he was chosen to chair the law and order select committee.

Faced with the simmering controversy Key casually revealed this week that Sabin had been on his shortlist for a ministerial post after the election. In doing so, Key doubled-down on any political damage if it is proved he knew more, earlier. It was typical poker playing by Key, who was effectively saying: “I am so confident I am right, and so keen for you to trust me, that I will give you even more ammunition to fire at me if I am proved wrong.”

But Little is right on one thing.

It is almost inconceivable that both the PM and the wider National leadership knew nothing of the issues facing Sabin before December. Tuesday’s first Question Time of the year will be crucial, giving the Opposition a platform to tease out who knew what and when. Of course only ministers, not the National Party, can be quizzed in that forum.

Key may also choose to dodge questions by donning one of his infamous non-prime ministerial hats. Given his blanket denials that would look both unnecessary and unduly cute.

The odd thing is that this is all playing into National’s hands. ?You yourself have been begging me to move on from this issue, as it appears boring and irrelevant. ?People have shut off to it, no matter the fact that Key was still showing solid support for Sabin months after “everyone else” knew.

The issue isn’t that Key lied, or has “brain fades”. ?The issue is that Key backs someone who has done something that is several order of magnitudes worse than a free bottle of wine, a misplaced phone call, or an off-the-clock dinner with a Chinese official.

It is Keys judgement that is a worry, not the fact he plays the time-line game. ?Because the time-line game is a winner for National. ?Every time Labour plays it, National’s support increases.


– NZ Herald