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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: No one the wiser on mystery video

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Prime Minister John Key takes his seat after reading his statement to the House, correcting what he said about the GCSB's involvement with Kim Dotcom. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Prime Minister John Key takes his seat after reading his statement to the House, correcting what he said about the GCSB's involvement with Kim Dotcom. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

"Mr Speaker, why should God defend New Zealand?" shouted a man from the front row of the public gallery yesterday after Lockwood Smith's recital of the parliamentary prayer.

He was quickly bundled away by security staff. But the visitor's mention of the Almighty left a more pertinent question hanging in the air: "Will God defend David Shearer?"

Shearer's mention of a supposedly incriminating videotape of John Key addressing GCSB staff has resulted in the Opposition leader turning wine into water.

His failure to produce any such tape has allowed Key to get off the hook and shift questions about credibility on to the Labour leader instead.

During a press conference, Shearer tried to sound forceful and decisive, saying it was the Opposition's job to ask Key the hard questions.

But he was skewered by equally hard and persistent questioning about the tape.

Key, meanwhile, was rehearsing his lines for what he was terming a "put up or shut up" challenge to Shearer during question time.

However, Shearer's line of questioning in the House sought to elicit information from the Prime Minister rather than make political points.

That restricted Key's ability to make an all-out assault on Shearer's credibility.

The Prime Minister was dished up one patsy question by one of his whips which enabled him to say there was no video, never had been a video and, moreover, no videos had been deleted from the GCSB's files.

But Shearer responded to good effect by cleverly lampooning Key and listing the latter's vague answers of recent weeks on the GCSB's involvement in the Dotcom case - "I don't remember", "I don't know", "Um, you know, who knows?" and "I don't remember cracking a joke about that one, because I crack jokes all the time".

So pretty much a draw - and not an especially enlightening one either.


Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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