John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Key's parting shots leave Labour agape

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker

Labour may be quick - at times too quick - to take umbrage at what John Key says or does.

But yesterday, the party's MPs could feel more than just miffed following some injudicious-sounding remarks the Prime Minister made after the protest from the public gallery.

Labour MPs drew the obvious conclusion when Key shouted in Labour's direction, "You should be ashamed of yourselves", and "That's down to you".

The Prime Minister was saying Labour was to blame for the man's behaviour. Well, Key's office says he wasn't saying that.

It might have helped had he stayed and explained himself. On the other hand, given Labour emotions, it may have been just as well that he didn't.

Key instead returned to his Beehive office with cries of "shame" and "apologise" following in his wake.

Labour MP Annette King felt peeved enough to label him a "scumbag".

The Prime Minister's office later said he had been referring to Labour's criticism of the number of diplomatic protection squad police employed in ensuring his safety, compared with his predecessor, Helen Clark. That criticism has extended to questioning why an officer sits in the gallery while Key is in the House.

It is the Commissioner of Police and his senior staff who determine the level of protection - not Key.

However, the Prime Minister obviously felt vindicated - that the unfortunate incident had provided the justification for the level of security around him. But Labour's campaign has obviously struck a raw nerve.

Yesterday was the penultimate day of Parliament before it rises for the election. It was some finale.

Labour's Trevor Mallard later accused National's Tau Henare of making a Mongrel Mob salute. Henare said he had been making the Hawaiian "hang loose" salute.

And there was a plea from Assistant Speaker Ross Robertson to MPs not to treat the debating chamber like a public house and instead show respect for one another. "Courtesy is contagious," he said. Sometimes, maybe - but not yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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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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