Judith Collins' resignation yesterday was weeks, perhaps months, overdue. Yet the offence for which she has left the ministry is less clearcut than the list of misjudgments and economy with the facts that made her a liability to the National Party.
She has gone because her friend the blogger Cameron Slater, in a 2011 email to third parties which was given to the Prime Minister's office on Friday, claimed Collins was "gunning" for then Serious Fraud Office chief executive Adam Feeley and was seeking information on him to put before the State Services Commission.
According to Slater, this was a result of a push by himself and others to discredit Feeley. He claims to have spoken to Collins and "any information we can provide her on his background is appreciated". One of the email recipients is believed to be Carrick Graham, a public relations man at the time for Mark Hotchin and Hanover Finance, a failed finance company.
Collins was the minister responsible for the Serious Fraud Office, so it is highly inappropriate if she did indeed share any views on Feeley with a blogger who would be capable of sharing them with someone associated with a company then under inquiry by the SFO.
She denies, resolutely, having done so, and has asked the Prime Minister for an inquiry. In the meantime, she has resigned as Minister of Justice and is unlikely to be reinstated after the election.
Collins has a proven lack of judgment and candour. However in this case she did refer the public criticisms of Feeley - from stories published by the NZ Herald, in other media and on the blog - to the State Services Commission for review. That is the accepted procedure by a minister regarding a departmental chief executive. Feeley remained in his job for a year beyond the time the accusations were made.
The State Services Commissioner is reportedly satisfied with Collins' conduct in the matter. Yesterday she praised Feeley's performance and denied having wanted to remove him.
So she has been hung out to dry by the words of Slater, her friend and sometime co-conspirator in politics. How much weight can be given to those words? His emails drip with boastfulness and bluster. He exaggerates in the same email his influence over Herald coverage of Feeley, which was nil, and the extent of contact and information he had with a Herald reporter, which was limited.
Despite the questions over Collins' involvement, John Key has taken the opportunity to put himself, his party and the electorate out of its misery. She may yet be hung by her own words and actions, but no longer as part of the Government.
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