John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: It's out with Aaron, on with Budget

Aaron Gilmore. Photo / Getty Images
Aaron Gilmore. Photo / Getty Images

In resigning from Parliament, Aaron Gilmore has put his loyalty to his party first. Or so says National Party president Peter Goodfellow.

No one is going to believe that. Of course, it is necessary to close ranks after a disgraced MP's departure and not speak ill of the dead.

If Gilmore was so loyal to the party, why did he not quit when the Prime Minister gave the big hint he should last week? Gilmore effectively challenged his leader's authority when the leader had lost confidence in his bottom-ranked MP.

Key's response was to talk airily about how difficult it is to expel someone from the party. But he could easily have had Gilmore suspended from the National caucus.

That would have quarantined Gilmore and avoided any collateral damage to the party.

Suspension may have got the message to Gilmore that the game was up and he should quit.

Several questions remain. What kind of pressure was exerted over the weekend to force him out? Has he done some kind of deal with the party? Was there more from Gilmore's past about to surface?

Whatever, the timing of his going is not a moment too soon. The Budget will be delivered on Thursday.

The last thing Key and his Cabinet colleagues would have wanted is for that document to be fighting for media attention alongside Gilmore.

The handling of the Aaron Gilmore affair has not been Key's or National's finest hour. Something that should have been settled within a day or so dragged on for close to two weeks.

- NZ Herald

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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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