COMMENT: It is not so much death by a thousand cuts; it
is death from being buried by thousands of emails.
It is going to require all of John Key's political skills to
get National's election campaign back on an even keel
following the forced resignation of Judith Collins and yet
more damaging allegations regarding her modus operandi as a
Otherwise next Monday's Cabinet meeting - the final one
before the election - could well be the last one Key chairs.
No prizes for guessing what will be top of the agenda at
today's Cabinet meeting. Whatever rescue strategy has been
worked out by senior ministers has to second-guess heaven
knows what else that might seep out of cyberspace and expose
other warts on National's body politic.
It is unlikely that today's "fiscal announcement" by Bill
English on the likelihood of future tax cuts will drown out
the cacophony provoked by the weekend's allegations that
Collins - along with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater - was
party to a smear campaign against the head of the Serious
Fraud Office. The latter charge has been denied by Collins.
But the allegation that connections close to former Hanover
boss Mark Hotchin were working with Slater changes things a
It will be a sore point among the tens of thousands of voters
who lost millions of dollars in savings from the collapse of
finance houses. The undermining of the SFO says to those
voters that National was never on their side when it came to
sheeting home responsibility for the chaos in that part of
the finance industry. It brings the whole issue of "dirty
politics" much closer to home.
Some mud seems bound to stick to Key. Labour, the Greens and
New Zealand First sense that he is Teflon Man no more. With
Collins gone, those parties are going hell for leather to
persuade voters that Key is as culpable as she is for her
alleged behaviour; that it is a culture that has infected the
The one small consolation for Key is that it was assumed if
National leaks votes from this episode, they are more likely
to go to New Zealand First and the Conservatives than the
centre-left parties. Last night's One News-Colmar Brunton
poll suggests otherwise.
Key could do himself some good by spelling out exactly what
kind of inquiry he intends establishing to get to the bottom
of the allegations against Collins. He says he is taking
advice on that. That may be normal procedure. But these are
A few minutes acquainting himself with the revised Inquiries
Act would leave him in no doubt what he should do.
Nothing short of a full independently-chaired public inquiry
with broad terms of reference and reporting to Parliament
- By John Armstrong of the New Zealand Herald