Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Versions of boozy incident are so different that the party's over for MP

Aaron Gilmore
Aaron Gilmore

Aaron Gilmore has no future with the National Party. The only question is when the end will come - now or at next year's list selection process.

His $142,000 salary rests in the hands of a waiter who's remaining silent. At issue now is not how obnoxious the MP was to the waiter during his boozy dinner at a Hanmer Springs hotel; it's about whether he has misled the Prime Minister's office.

It may not be bad manners, but it's usually sackable.

Mr Gilmore's version of what was said differs markedly from the version of his friend, Christchurch lawyer Andrew Riches, when Mr Gilmore was denied another bottle of wine.

Mr Riches says the MP threatened to have the Prime Minister's office intervene and end the waiter's employment.

As Mr Riches freely said on Thursday, that was the part he found so galling that he felt compelled to leave a note for the waiter to tell him not to worry; that his job was not under threat.

Mr Gilmore later denied saying that when asked directly by John Key's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson.

It is instructive that the PM's office saw fit to put the denial in print and it issued a statement in Mr Key's name on Thursday: "Any suggestion that a Member of Parliament has sought to use the influence of the Prime Minister's office inappropriately is a serious matter," he said. "My Chief of Staff has rung Mr Gilmore this afternoon and Mr Gilmore refuted the allegation."

The discrepancies in the stories are so vast you might think the Prime Minister would want to be sure his MP was telling the truth.

But he is not. He is resisting any further inquiries until such time as there is a formal complaint to his office. That could come only from Mr Riches, or the waiter or the hotel.

In the meantime, Mr Key is content to take Mr Gilmore's word for it.

That is what honourable members do, accept each other's word, and at present it is convenient to do so. Just like it was convenient to take John Banks' word for it that he had no idea Kim Dotcom had made donations to Mr Banks' mayoral campaign.

Mr Gilmore showed an early unwillingness to accept responsibility for his bullying actions at Hanmer; there is no reason to assume a strong suggestion from Mr Key to resign would get the desired result.

He could be expelled from the party and remain as an independent MP, like Brendan Horan. That would be messy.

Given the state of National's support parties, and its thin majority, Mr Key will want to avoid any perception of instability.

Mr Gilmore first entered Parliament in 2008 at No 56 on National's list. While not without talent, his biggest fan has always been himself as an old 21-page CV would show.

The next election he missed out at No 54 on the list. This year he came in as a list replacement for Lockwood Smith. Next year, he might as well not put himself forward at all.

- NZ Herald

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