Nats hit by more secret recordings

The National Party has been hit by more damaging recordings of private conversations which the Government can use to claim it has a hidden agenda.

As it tried today to shut down the controversy over deputy leader Bill English's secretly taped comments about selling Kiwibank, TV3 News broadcast remarks by senior MP Lockwood Smith.

"There's some bloody dead fish you have to swallow...to get into government to do the kinds of things you want to do," Dr Smith said when he was talking privately to delegates at National's conference on Friday night.

"Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we've got more chance of doing more things."

Dr Smith said if National tried to do everything differently it would "scare the horses" and under MMP it would be very hard to win an election.

"We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process...you wouldn't be able to do them straight off."

Party leader John Key said Dr Smith's comments did not in any way amount to evidence of a secret agenda.

"It's the latest in a long line of dirty tricks and personal attacks by our opponents and we fully expect more of these in the coming months," he said.

"National is being absolutely up front about the policies it intends to implement should it become the government after the election."

Mr Key said he would not be distracted by dirty tricks "like secret recordings and Labour's attempts to sneak activists into our conference".

Prime Minister Helen Clark was asked yesterday whether the recordings were made by Labour Party spies.

She said she had absolutely no idea who made the recordings, just as she had no idea who taped Labour's president Mike Williams during a closed session of the party's congress in April.

Mr Williams was recorded telling delegates he thought it was "a damn good idea" to use ministry publications during an election campaign, which landed him in trouble.

Before TV3 broadcast Dr Smith's comments tonight, Mr English had to front up and tell the media National had no plans to sell Kiwibank.

"It's not my view. It's not my private view. I simply used loose language - I made a statement I shouldn't have," he said.

Mr Key, who spoke to reporters with Mr English at his side in a show of unity, said he did not see any circumstances in which Kiwibank would be sold.

"We would never make a change to that decision without a mandate," he said.

Miss Clark and her deputy Michael Cullen have been saying Mr English's comments were evidence of that, and now they have more ammunition.

In Parliament today Cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard said it was clear what was happening.

"The secret agenda of the National Party is slowly unravelling," he said, calling on its MPs to "come clean" about their real intentions.

Miss Clark said she did not believe Mr English's retraction, and Dr Cullen said the deputy leader was driving policy while Mr Key was the smiling front man.

Dr Cullen said tonight the latest revelations presented Mr Key with two options.

"He could admit that he has no intention of sticking to the centrist `Labour-plus' agenda he is promising New Zealanders.

"Or he can admit that the senior MPs around him are very happy to use him to gain power but have no intention of letting him run the show if they are elected."

 

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