Who does the Prime Minister think he is fooling?
John Key stunned journalists at his post-Cabinet press conference yesterday by suddenly asserting that when he said that contributing to the fight against Isis was "the price of the club", he was actually referring to the 60-plus nations in the United States-led coalition endeavouring to halt the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, rather than the Five Eyes spying alliance.
There was certainly some ambiguity in his reply to a question during an interview with the BBC while he was in Europe last month.
In the video of the interview, the Prime Minister initially appears to be referring to the multi-national force. But it rapidly becomes clear that the "club" that Key is most definitely talking about is the Five Eyes intelligence-gathering network, whose membership is restricted, along with New Zealand, to this country's four most longstanding allies - Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada.
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That was the assumption that everyone took from the interview. It was widely thought that Key had blundered in his choice of language which effectively confirmed New Zealand's participation in the multi-national force was inevitable and the result of pressure from the Americans, real or implicit.
If the assumption that Key was talking about Five Eyes was wrong, neither Key nor his office made any effort to correct it in succeeding weeks. At least not until yesterday - less than 24 hours before Key is due to make a ministerial statement to Parliament.
Key's insistence that he was referring to all of the members of the multi-national force as the "club" defies logic. How could contributing to that club be the price of being a member of that club when New Zealand has yet to become a member of that club?
Key's desperate attempt to rewrite history is something of an outrage. But it is also a measure of his discomfort with the deployment which could well turn out to bite him severely politically.
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