Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Drip, drip ... time is running out

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Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher

Every aspiring politician should etch deep in their subconscious that it's not the crime that brings you down - it's the cover-up.

I'm amazed at how much leeway we give the Prime Minister. People need to realise his twists and turns this week; being revealed as having had a part in getting his mate the top job in charge of our spooks, was not only embarrassing but also a wee bit sinister.

History shows us that every despot who feels the people's love dissipating inevitably falls back on cynically appointing their cronies to the top jobs in his or her inner circle.

Name one dictator who didn't handpick their spy chiefs? Any long-serving Mafia boss survives by appointing blood relatives in their home village as their capos.

To be fair, John Key does have a legitimate gripe about our spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau. These sleuths botched things up when they joined in the Keystone Kops Kaper over Kim Dotcom.

There was the leak that implied the Prime Minister wasn't very smart.

Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister lost confidence in his spies, and put his Cabinet Secretary into the GCSB head office to stop their bungling.

It seems quite logical that he would want one of his mates to head the agency, rather than being saddled with some career hack from within its bureaucracy.

But saying he barely knew Ian Fletcher, his pick for the head of GCSB? He implied they hadn't met since they were at school - as we all know now, that wasn't true. Three shared meals in recent times confirmed so far (and still counting).

Does it remind you of a certain MP from Epsom who couldn't recall his previous BFF and their dining experiences?

The revelations that Key has been actively lobbying for Fletcher to get a top job in the state bureaucracy since 2009, and then personally made a call to Fletcher to tell him there was a job lined up for him, was suss behaviour by any measure.

Another bout of memory loss and a lame cover-up has made it the debacle it now is.

Every day this week, media have listed more revelations. It just keeps giving and giving.

Labour's Svengali, Grant Robertson, knows he has his possum in the night lights. It isn't going to end well for National.

None of this was necessary. Key is the great salesman and deal maker.

What's so hard to sell us? He had lost confidence in his GCSB leadership and wanted a fresh broom to lift their game.

What was so hard in saying that the shortlisted candidates for the job weren't good enough for him? And he wanted Fletcher to be interviewed?

Apart from the chattering classes, no one would have given a stuff. If anything, his supporters would have praised him for strong leadership.

The parliamentary gallery doesn't care if a politician is less than open with us, the masses. But woe the politician who misleads them. It's taken four years, but the honeymoon is over.

It appears to me like we have a Prime Minister looking sulky and guilty. This one incident won't kill Key. But from now on he won't get the benefit of the doubt.

Most people thought he was straight and true. Only his diehards and the dim-witted believe that now.

I liken it to a dripping sound - the seeping away of our Prime Minister's integrity. Eventually the vessel will empty and will be discarded. Drip, drip.


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