Another long week in politics and the Prime Minister has shifted from being Teflon John to being almost entirely transparent - a fact even his most slavish supporters must now be waking up to.

Dirt may not be sticking to Key yet, but only because he (publicly) refuses to fully inform himself of the detail of the issues raised by Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics or to answer any questions about them.

Consider Radio NZ's Morning Report last Monday, where journalist Guyon Espiner asked Key directly whether he thought it "okay" that Judith Collins had given bureaucrat Simon Pleasants' full details - including private phone numbers - to blogger Cameron Slater, whose hate campaign against Pleasants for supposedly leaking Bill English's dodgy accommodation allowances records in 2009 saw Pleasants receive death threats.

Espiner repeated the question 10 times, demanding a simple yes or no. Every time, Key unwaveringly trotted out his glib phrase about that allegation being part of a left-wing smear campaign - deliberately ignoring the actual question.


This is his "style": avoid a difficult question if possible; above all never give a definitive answer.

It's a revision of the "you may very well think so, but I couldn't possibly comment" catchphrase of Francis Urquhart, lead character in the BBC's 1990 political thriller series House of Cards. You can't be caught lying if you don't actually say anything, and if you must say something, make it seem as though it's not really your opinion.

Later in the week - after Collins herself had reconfirmed it - Key finally backtracked on his original stance and admitted Collins was "unwise" to pass on Pleasants' details but when pressed as to whether he would examine the matter, reverted to his offhand "maybe, maybe not" refrain.

Key repeated that phrase to a range of questions about whether there should be enquiries into the allegations contained in the book, along with his other favourite, "It's not for me to say". Then whose job is it, John?

In the process he managed to mock his own "last chance" warning to Collins, given in May for misleading him on her dealings with Oravida's Deyi Shi, and reprised for this latest scandal. The Oravida "last chance" only applied "at the time", Key said. Presumably then this new "last chance" is equally meaningless.

Which beggars the question: how much dirt does Collins have on Key to prevent him firing her?

An awful lot, it seems. "Crusher" could not shout "if I go, he goes" more clearly than Key's stance intimates.

Nor, now that Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn has instigated an inquiry into whether the SIS released information inappropriately to Slater for political purposes, can Key maintain his mantra that Hager's book is a "selective bunch of made-up allegations that can't be backed up". Gwyn deciding there is sufficient evidence to cause her to open an inquiry is a breath of fresh air.

Meanwhile police are moving to investigate Slater's complaint about being hacked, but have yet to decide whether to take action against Collins and others (including Slater) over the apparently-illegal doings Hager details.

Does it stop being a crime simply because it occurred one or two or five years ago? No.

As to integrity, Teflon - sorry, Transparent - John now has none whatsoever. Either he is complicit - the hidden puppet-master - in these devious dirty deals, or he is incompetent, not even aware of what his closest staff are really doing.

Truly, a hollow man - one we can all now see right through.

That's the right of it.

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.