John Armstrong 's Opinion

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: PM suffers his hardest blow so far

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Prime Minister John Key. Photo / APN
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / APN

Finally, some answers. What's more, some answers about who knew what and when; some answers which should leave the Prime Minister's face as red as his favoured pinot noir.

Despite John Key's insistent denials, it now seems to be the case that he actually was briefed by the GCSB on its eavesdropping on Kim Dotcom at a session in February which outlined the spy agency's wider roles and capabilities.

Key cannot remember. Neither can Ian Fletcher, the GCSB director. But others present confirmed there was brief mention of the Dotcom saga. Key has had to accept their word.

He knows that he consequently emerges battered from this affair; that the Opposition parties have landed their strongest hit on him since he became Prime Minister. He will roll with the punches, however. He has little choice. Opposition parties are claiming the episode demonstrates the real level of incompetence within Key's Government.

Any incompetence in this case, however, should be sheeted home to the bureau. It has taken more than two weeks to provide Key with basic information. Its inertia has dumped Key right in it. His demands that it move with greater speed appear to have gone unheeded.

Essentially, there has been a culture clash between the slow, methodical GCSB and the frantic world of politics.

As a result, Key has called in Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge to sort out the GCSB. He clearly no longer trusts the bureau.

Key is likely to feel obliged to apologise to Parliament for the inaccuracy of some of his statements to the House. But the worst looks to be over for National.

- 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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