Archive for August 28th, 2008

More blues for Boris

August 28, 2008

And you still won’t find this on kiwiblog.

Last month I posted about how the newly installed Mayor of London Boris Johnson had lost two senior advisors. Well, he’s gone and lost another.

After only a few months in the job, first deputy mayor Tim Parker has resigned. Parker, a prominent businessman, said he was resigning because he didn’t think Johnson needed a full-time first deputy mayor. City Hall insiders said that the move was the result of ‘restructuring’.

At least this time the resignation didn’t follow a controversy. But how does that old saying go, “To lose one senior advisor might be regarded as misfortune…” The word is that the eighth floor of City Hall is rife with chaos. It would be funny if London weren’t one of the world’s great cities.

You could put it down to those nice Crosby-Textor people who apparently repackaged Boris and sold the inexperienced lightwieght to the unsuspecting burghers, who had grown tired of the sour-faced, though competent, incumbent. Still, couldn’t happen here, could it!?

Peters’ time running short

August 28, 2008

Serious Fraud Office director Grant Liddell has confirmed the SFO will investigate the Peters donations. (Press release here: pdf.)

“Liddell said he suspected an investigation may reveal serious and complex fraud -– the bar he has to reach before being allowed to launch such an inquiry.

“I want to emphasise that it is entirely possible that there are innocent and honest explanations. The use of statutory power to require documents to be provided will enable the SFO to ascertain how funds were applied.”

Peters responded that he “will meet this investigation head on”, labelling the investigation “ridiculous”.

So, fasten your seatbelts folks, it looks like we are flying into a large pocket of political turbulence. Clark has decided to sleep on the matter, but it is difficult to see how she can avoid suspending her Foreign Minister. Who knows, she may already be readying Phil Goff to step in as acting minister and sounding out Peters’ reaction.

Would Peters try to bring down the government and precipitate an early election? He’d probably be on a hiding to nothing after the latest revelations. He knows the consequences. In any case, as noted below, the Maori Party could give the government their support for the ETS, the single remaining big ticket item. With Brian Connell’s abrupt resignation, things just got slightly easier for the government in terms of making up the numbers. I say, go for it Helen!

Update: Not sparing the opportunity to use a provocative metaphor, Chris Trotter sums up the role of the press in this whole affair:

“…this particular dog-fight is being stage-managed… A carefully orchestrated campaign of character assassination — the political equivalent of a gang-rape — in which members of the news media have become as deeply implicated in the planning, timing and execution of each assault as the politicians themselves…”

Yeah, this week’s events couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nats.They were fast losing control of their narrative, and the gap was closing

Maori Party — here’s your chance

August 28, 2008

08 wire points out that the Maori Party has the chance to come to our our aid. Like me they’ve concluded that Winston Peters’ “version of events surrounding big donations to his legal fund/New Zealand First … is becoming hard to swallow.”

But also:

“The government, rightly in our view, see the immediate passing of some form of ETS as crucial to New Zealand’s battle against GHG emissions. We, like the Greeens, want a better ETS in due course. But we, like the Greens, want to make sure there is a framework in place to improve upon.”

Absolutely correct. I think that the meme that Labour wants the ETS as some form of “legacy” is overly cynical. After all, the news on the climate change front just keeps getting worse. It’s important, and the Nats will more than likely give us a Claytons ETS. That’s what their big business backers want.

08 wire say:

“If the government can convince the Maori Party to pledge support for the ETS, then it can suspend Winston’s warrants almost immediately.”

Interesting thought. See their post for further analysis.

PQT: Cullen at his best

August 28, 2008

Call me a party hack, but I thought Cullen was at his majestic best in Parliament’s Question Time today, swatting off the vast majority of questions from the other side. (Both Clark and Key were absent.)

The problem the Nats seem to have is that they get ahead of themselves, just like their supporters in the blogosphere. Time after time Bill English referred to “facts” that quite simply are not facts.

You could see Cullen’s frustration as he had to explain repeatedly that Clark did not learn in February that “Owen Glenn made a donation to NZ First”, as English put it (and the Herald, “Updated 2:27PM Helen Clark this morning said Owen Glenn told her in February that he gave $100,000 to NZ First.”) Here’s what Clark is reported to have said on this aspect:

“Mr Glenn on [the occasion of the opening of the Business School in February] said to me pretty much what he said to the Privileges Committee.”

and…

“He (Mr Glenn) stated his view then that he had contributed money — whether it was to New Zealand First or to some other fund that’s lost in the mists of time. But as I say at every time that this issue has arisen, I have rung Mr Peters and asked for his word.” (NB: Clearly, there should be a comma after the word “fund” in this transcription.)

And Peters denied knowing anything about it. As Cullen pointed out over and again “nothing has changed” in that respect.

Cullen also made the crucial point that the Nats have prejudged the outcome of the Privileges Committee hearings — one of them called it a “facade” — and in doing so were undermining due process. This even despite the fact that (for the first time) there is an opposition MP chairing the committee.

The Nats only started to get traction when they began asking, at the very end of the supplementary questions, why Clark hadn’t revealed what she knew before. But it was too little, too late.

Tip to Bill English. Don’t try to build an argument on dodgy foundations. Doesn’t work.

Peters newsflash: Glenn told Clark about donation in February

August 28, 2008

Helen Clark has revealed that Owen Glenn told her in February that he donated $100,000 to NZ First. (Except he didn’t, as we now know — he donated it to Peters’ fighting fund.)

She recounts that when she put this to Peters at the time, he assured her that his party had not received a donation from Glenn. Technically, he was right; his fighting fund received the money.

But it seems that Glenn also told the PM that Peters had solicited the money from him personally:

“Mr Glenn on that occasion said to me pretty much what he said to the Privileges Committee. As you would expect, the first thing that I did was go away and ring Mr Peters, and Mr Peters has consistently maintained that he never made that phone call to Mr Glenn. So, there’s always been a conflict of evidence.”

Clark said that every time the issue arose she rang Peters and asked for his word. And got it.

“I have not known Mr Peters to lie to me, and I have to take people as I find them. He is utterly convinced that he never made that call.”

Maybe so, but as the Herald says:

“This new information this morning means Helen Clark has known for months of the conflicting sides of the story which were publicly revealed yesterday in letters to Parliament’s privileges committee.”

True. It’s not really sustainable to know something like this and simply accept Peters’ word for it. It needed to be investigated properly, for the sake of the body politic, if nothing else. Peters may indeed never have made the call, or may be utterly mistaken about that (though it’s hard to see how you could be mistaken about asking someone you’d only met a couple of times for a $100,000 donation). But that’s not the point. Cabinet ministers need to be seen to be acting properly.

Update: Steve Pierson at The Standard notes that when Clark asked Peters in February about Glenn’s assertion that he had made a donation to Peters:

“… Peters was at least on notice that a donation may have been made and, given that, he shouldn’t have flatly denied a donation had been made. However, it also shifts the weight of evidence to a conclusion that Peters has been misleading us.”

Tui

August 28, 2008

It’s a glorious spring day, so I walked up to the Village by way of Fairview Rd. Dozens of tui, flitting from tree to tree, their song echoing all around. Sublime.

One resident of the street told me that “The tui start at 5am.” “But I don’t mind it at all”, she added. Who would?

NZ First’s finances

August 28, 2008

Bryce Edwards, who occasionally comments on this blog, has posted an interesting and detailed account of NZ First’s shadowy financial history, The Finances of New Zealand First (draft), on his own blog. It’s certainly worth a look.

He makes the point that NZ political parties have generally been reluctant to divulge their financial details. NZ First is really an “extreme case” of a general tendency. It is my understanding, though, that the Labour Party has been relatively more forthcoming with financial information in recent times.

Interestingly, the patterns of secrecy, informal arrangments and partitioning that have been revealed in recent times are not news. They’ve been revealed before. For example, Bryce tells how:

“… after losing a defamation case brought against him by businessman Selwyn Cushing, Peters was ordered to pay $135,000 in damages and costs. There was widespread speculation about who paid the bill. Even then Peters maintained he had no knowledge of the donors to his legal fund. The National Business Review reported him as saying, ‘It was all dealt with by lawyers – I have no idea about any of it’ (NBR, 28 Aug 1998).”

Perhaps journalists in the old media have short memories. Many thanks for doing this work, Bryce.

Peters

August 28, 2008

The Herald’s editorial this morning goes to some length to ignore logic in a desperate bid to parrot today’s National Party talking points.

Echoing Farrar’s “who has the most to gain by not telling the truth?” line, it begins with its conclusion:

“If Winston Peters had the decency his position deserves, he would now resign.”

Problem is, it doesn’t come down to “who has the most to gain by not telling the truth.” If it did, I’d be 99% inclined to go with Peters having the greater motivation, but would still be mindful of Glenn’s estrangement from Labour that Farrar and co want us to overlook.

But it doesn’t. Having decided that Peters has the greater motivation to lie and is therefore guilty of doing so, and should resign in consequence, it notes:

If neither is honestly mistaken in his recall, then one of them is not telling the truth.”

I’ve added the emphasis, because this is the point at which the analysis should have started. Belatedly the Herald admits that its reasoning is based on overlooking the point that the conflict of evidence may not result from one (or both) lying.

The problem is that the Herald does not demonstrate that “neither of them is honestly mistaken in his recall”. I wish it could.

This sort of stuff puts the Herald in the same league as Farrar, who begins his post, “Owen Glenn has told the truth in his letter to the Privileges Committee.” I’m now strongly of the opinion that right-wing bloggers should be exempted from all jury service, because of the way they rush to judgement!

One thing the Herald gets right:

“Even National, ever tentative, has now cast him aside.”

Key held off as long as he could before taking a stand. Courageous? What a joke.

Perhaps it pays not to snub billionaires, Helen?

Perhaps it pays not to snub billionaires, Helen?


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