The National Party has suffered a massive breach of sound judgment from top to bottom.
MP Hamish Walker's confession to being the person who sent the names of Covid-19 patients to media outlets was bad enough — but his apology has reinforced his shocking judgment.
It is an apology for an apology. It smacks of self-righteous post-fact justification, and downright deception.
His statement suggests his motive for sending the list was akin to some kind of white-hat hacker, trying to expose weaknesses in the Government's information systems.
"By exposing a significant privacy issue I hope the Government will improve its protocols and get its safeguards right."
The gall of it.
His actual motive, as understood by my colleague Amelia Wade who received the list, was to defend his reputation against allegations of racism.
He had been accused of racism for saying it was disgraceful that communities in his part of the world, Queenstown and Dunedin, had not been consulted about them possibly being used for managed isolation, and singling out three countries.
"These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea."
Apparently the list he sent through doesn't actually list country of nationality or where they had flown from and so the list proved absolutely nothing — except poor judgment.
National leader Todd Muller publicly admonished Walker about his statement singling out India, Pakistan and Korea.
But the privacy breach dominated the political agenda at the weekend and Walker let Muller and health spokesman Michael Woodhouse criticise the Government throughout the weekend over the breach of privacy — not knowing they were associated with the guilty party.
Walker sought legal advice on Monday and after being told he had not broken the law, then confessed to his leader on Monday afternoon — just as the Government was nailing down details of an inquiry by former Solicitor-General Michael Heron QC.
Muller then sat on this for more than 24 hours while working out with his most trusted advisers how to manage it for the least political damage. He presumably allowed Walker to issue his pathetic statement, which concludes with the words: "I will be fully co-operating with the Michael Heron QC inquiry."
There should be no inquiry. It will be a waste of money. It should be called off and whatever contract Heron has signed with the State Services Commission should be funded by the National Party.
Unfortunately for Muller, the only statement more pathetic than Walker's is his own. Someone has told him that if he downplays the situation, maybe the public will.
No Mr Muller. "I have expressed to Hamish my view that forwarding on this information was an error of judgment" is lame. "Given this matter is the subject of an inquiry, I will not be making any further public comment" is unacceptable.
What would have been leadership would be if he had said that one of his MPs has shown an appalling error of judgment which was so serious that he was referring it to the National Party board to consider his future as a candidate at the election in September.
The fact that a former National Party president and prominent party-aligned commentator, Michelle Boag, was Walker's source compounds Muller's crisis. Boag did not reveal her own involvement to the leadership until yesterday, it is understood.
The one thing in Boag's favour is that she at least issued a proper apology and resigned from the organisation through which she obtained the patient information, as acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.
After this disgraceful prelude to the election campaign, it is the National Party that may need rescuing.