The difference between John Key and a possum in the headlights is that you can run over a possum; and while, as the ad says, it's either you or it, we don't seem to have that luxury with the PM.

I'm talking metaphorically, of course. But as much as Key's glassy disconnected stare is coming to resemble that of some unfortunate roadkill just before impact, he's a much more cunning survivalist than your average marsupial.

Basically, he ducks.

He flatters himself to let a whole convoy of complaint rumble over the top of him, then gets up and dusts himself off by snapping a wisecrack about how poor the Opposition's driving is.


And as much as many Kiwis may be drawn into sniggering along with Key's retorts when the latest political car crash is dodged, there comes a point when the sheer gall of this behaviour in the face of seemingly-endless allegations begins to pall.

That point, I suggest, has been reached.

Let's face it, no-one can seriously believe the Prime Minister was completely unaware of the shenanigans going on within his office, in which most if not all his senior staff were engaged, complete with a plethora of "black ops" dirty tricks up to and including wink wink arrangements with the SIS aimed at undermining his foes.

And while Key might claim to be unscathed by Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn's report into those dealings, let's remember her focus in preparing it was very narrow: simply, whether the SIS had acted inappropriately.

That's not at all the same thing as whether the PM, or his staff, acted inappropriately " and Ms Gwyn made this distinction clear. So for Key to claim the report exonerates him or his office is as disingenuous as asking a blind man to say how many fingers you're holding up " and laughing at his guess whether it's right or not.

Bottom line: Key got away with attacking Phil Goff in the lead-up to the 2011 election based on "incomplete inaccurate and misleading" information provided by the SIS; Key's staff got away with feeding that misleading information to blogger Cameron Slater (via suggesting Slater file an OIA request for it), thereby fuelling a smear campaign against Goff by Slater.

Those inaccuracies and the breach of political neutrality by then-SIS Director Dr Warren Tucker were the main findings of Gwyn's report.

The apologies that have followed were solely about the fact that information and process was flawed " not to do with whether the Prime Minister's office was running a dirty tricks campaign. Which it was.

So my question to you all, dear readers, is: Now that our Prime Minister has been shown up as a ducker and dodger, is that the sort of "heroic image" New Zealanders like to support?

Because, frankly, Key's just being a smarty-pants, instead of manning up and admitting his (or at least his staff's) faults.

Perhaps he wasn't given enough strong boundaries as a child, since he apparently believes the absurd can be defended with impunity no matter how ridiculous it gets.

That's the attitude of a schoolyard bully, or maybe a financial futures trader; not of a Prime Minister.

To admit some fault and apologise would be the decent thing to do.

Unfortunately decency is not a word history will associate with this government " a fact those of you who voted them in may now be starting to find distasteful.

And if you aren't, then this country really is going down the toilet.

Flushed that way by the dirtiest of tricks from the top.

That's the right of it.

-Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet