It's looking like a potential 'game-changer' now. The so-called teapot tapes have somehow become the single biggest issue of the election, and are seriously threatening the stability of National's carefully orchestrated campaign. Opinion polls have consistently pointed to a landslide victory to National, but the potential for movement is now very real. It's conceivable that Key's handling of the incident will put a major dent in his reputation and image.
In addition, New Zealand First has been allowed back into the campaign, and might now be threatening the 5% threshold. It would also be a great irony if Key, in attempting to save Act, inadvertently delivered the killer blow.
Both writers explain very well how John Key has mismanaged this political issue and ended up in a quandary.
Other very useful items on this issue include Tracy Watkin's Key ups the stakes over tea tape, Gordon Campbell's On the cuppa tea tape and billboard circuses, Brian Rudman's Key plays risky game over taping, Reading the Maps' Why 'Teagate' is anything but trivial, and the Taranaki Daily News editorial Live by the sword . . .. The most humorous comment comes from Denis Welch, who dreams up a John Key-Zac Guildford scenario on his Opposable thumb blogsite - see: Key tea vow.
Surely it won't be long now before the recording is released - officially or otherwise (see: Pundits believe Teapot Tape will be public soon). Much of it is already in the public arena via speculation and the pointed questions of political journalists like Duncan Garner, who has clearly got the bit between his teeth and is not about to let go. Matthew Hooton believes that National needs to do what they should have done from the start and front up properly on the issue - see: Oh dear! Key stuffs up big time. After comparing Key's gaffe to Helen Clark's infamous arrogant and angry 'corngate' interview with John Campbell, Hooton explains National's problem: 'National needs desperately to move on to this issue. The problem is that the Prime Minister's success over the last few years is so great that his team hasn't had much experience in dealing with political crises. To quote someone else, he is a victim of his own success as a popular and competent prime minister'.
The person with the most to gain from the teapot tapes coming out is probably Winston Peters - see: John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance's Winston Peters relishes opening over tape, and there's a decent chance that Peters will use tonight's minor party leaders debate on TVNZ to spill the beans.
Danyl Mclauchlan raises a good point on his Dim-Post blog, Minor point, where he points out that 'the tea-pot tape saga keys into a huge range of really substantive issues: the Prime Minister's integrity; media ethics; surveillance... It's about political management of the media, and the farce that is the ACT Party, and National's endorsement of said farce'.
It is true that the teapot and billboard vandalism issues dominating the news today have given rise to important moral and ethical questions about politics and elections. In terms of the teapot tapes, the questions include: Is it ethical to record politicians' conversations? Is it ethical to publish the transcripts? Is it OK for the state to spy on people, but not for people to spy on representatives of the state? Are political leaders 'fair game' for recording their conversations when they invite the media along for a publicity stunt?
National is not keen to answer questions - as we've seen today with John Key's dramatic press conference walkout - see Derek Cheng's Key storms off over tape question. But others are answering those questions with considerable authority and intelligence, including the British lawyer representing News of the World phone-hacking victims, who says that it is indeed in the public interest for the transcript of the recording to be released - see: Amelia Wade's Prime Minister's 'cheap shot'.
Just as the teapot tapes are a PR nightmare for National, the billboard vandalism saga threatens the Green Party's surge in the opinion polls. As today's Herald editorial points out (Sign vandals may cost Greens dearly), this is exactly the sort of issue that will worry the Greens' new-found support base amongst middle-of-the-road voters who admire the party's new moderation and respectability - see Adam Bennett and Amelia Romanos' Vandalism links blow for Greensand Tracy Watkins' Greens come clean over dirty tactics. Blogger Ele Ludemann - like others - raises questions about how much the Green Party MPs knew about the billboard vandalism campaign (Wild greens behind urbane front). She claims that it's still not clear the billboard vandals 'were not acting on the party's behalf', and in fact, 'I have found no reference to any assurance from any other MP or office holder in the party. Until they give one it is legitimate to ask did any of them know anything about the plan or its execution before this morning?'. Similarly, in his blog post, Unanswered questions re Jolyon White, David Farrar says 'The Greens have not said how many of their parliamentary staff knew about the campaign. We know at least one did. They have said they will not investigate until after the election. This leaves open the possibility that several of their staff knew, or were involved, in the campaign'.
In terms of the ethics of the Green Party related billboard vandalism, the following questions are being widely discussed: Is it OK to deface billboards during an election campaign? Where do you draw the line in between harmless billboard political pranks and systematic dirty tricks that infringe on the freedom of speech of opponents? Are political parties responsible for the actions of their members or activists? Is it appropriate for political party leaders to dob in their party members to the authorities for billboard activism?
Ex-Green Party MP Sue Bradford answers that last question with an outraged 'No' - see: Danya Levy's Greens accused of selling out over billboard stoush, or listen to Bradford on RNZ's Checkpoint. Not only does the Mana Party candidate say that the Greens have 'sold out their own people', she argues that billboard defacing is an acceptable and normal part of the electoral political discourse. In agreement with this is Steven Price and Kiwipolitco who both argue that a bit of billboard damage should be an acceptable part of the campaign as long as it doesn't shift into the type of large-scale operation we've witnessed in the last few days - see: Price's Billboard "vandals" and Kiwipolitico's On Billboards. In contrast to this, John Pagani makes a good argument that Vandalism isn't free speech.
Finally, check out the account of Sue Bradford's very interesting views on the Green Party in her live Herald-online chat today: Bradford: Mana a 'party for the future', as well as a very good blog post analysing the shift of the Greens into the centre of the left-right political spectrum: Kiwipolitico's Against Centrism.
Tea tapes and Epsom
John Armstrong (NZH): 'Teapot tape' could nail lid to Act coffin
Tim Watkin (Pundit): Out of a teapot and into hot water
Derek Cheng (NZH): Key: Tea tape issue a 'sideshow'
Dan Satherley and James Murray (TV3): Teapot tape: Key storms out of media conference
Danya Levy, John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance (Stuff): Key storms out of media conference
Tracy Watkin (Stuff): Key ups the stakes over tea tape
Matthew Hooton (electionresults): Oh dear! Key stuffs up big time
Duncan Garner (TV3): Key turns down glimpse at 'teapot tapes' transcript
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the cuppa tea tape and billboard circuses
Reading the Maps: Why 'Teagate' is anything but trivial
Brian Rudman (NZH): Key plays risky game over taping
Dom Post: Minor point
Dom Post: Defining expectations down
The Standard: Goldsmith removing Goldsmith signs
Bernard Orsman (NZH): 'Hold your nose' answer to Epsom 'match-fixing'
Amelia Wade (NZH): Prime Minister's 'cheap shot'
Patrick Gower (TV3): Peters tells supporters teacup tapes contain insult to elderly
John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance (Stuff): Winston Peters relishes opening over tape
Peter Wilson (TV3): Key may face more teapot tape accusations
Natasha Burling (Newstalk ZB): Pundits believe Teapot Tape will be public soon
Michael Morrah (TV3): Teacup tapes: Missed recording device highlights security flaws
Simon Cunliffe (ODT): Mundane social ritual now steeped in new meaning
Taranaki Daily News: Editorial - Live by the sword...
Nelson Mail: Editorial - Stoking up a storm over the teacups
Michelle Cooke (Stuff): Teacup cameraman's police past
Whaleoil: Just who is Bradley Ambrose/Brad White?
The Standard: [insert tea-related pun here]
John Pagani (NZH): Tea party tape mere sideshow to main event in Epsom
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): This will not help
Steven Price (Media Law Journal): Conflict of interest
Denis Welch (Opposable thumb): Key tea vow
Billboard vandalism campaign
Danya Levy (Stuff): Greens accused of selling out over billboard stoush
Tracy Watkins (Dom Post): Greens come clean over dirty tactics
Steven Price (Media Law Journal): Billboard "vandals"
John Pagani (Stuff): Vandalism isn't free speech
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Wild greens behind urbane front
Rob Carr: (Political Dumpground): Green Damage
Martyn Bradbury (Tumke): Green Party so called 'vandalism' and Epsom Tea Party Tapes
Kiwipolitico: On Billboards
Alexia Russell, Natasha Burling and Felix Marwick (Newsgtalk ZB): Norman's leadership questioned over billboard vandalism
Whaleoil: Oh Really?
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Unanswered questions re Jolyon White
Danya Levy (Stuff): Green co-leader's PA knew of defacing plans
Keeping Stock: Dismiss him at your peril
Adam Bennett and Amelia Romanos (NZH): Vandalism links blow for Greens