You know it is a cold day in hell when Phil Goff declines an invitation to speak on the radio.

Few politicians more overtly hunger for media coverage than the Labour leader. So Goff's no-show on yesterday's Morning Report has to be seen as an admission that the Richard Worth affair has ended up biting him.

The same conclusion had to be drawn from Labour's sudden handing over to the Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon of the allegedly sexually explicit text messages sent by Worth to Labour Party activist Neelam Choudary.

It beggars belief that it was merely coincidence this occurred just as Choudary's name, which up until then had not been in the public domain, was about to be blasted around the blogosphere and across the airwaves.

Goff's little game was over. Having sought to exploit Worth's fall from grace by (successfully) dragging the Prime Minister into "yes you did - no I didn't" ping-pong over Key's handling of his former minister, Labour was now desperately trying to shut it all down.

Goff essentially used Choudary as a vehicle to attack Key. That would have been fine had Choudary's identity not become public. But it was inevitable it would. Goff's case was undermined by the huge discrepancy between the image he painted of Choudary and the reality.

He intimated she was some low-level Labour Party member who had become confused and traumatised by Worth's alleged advances. The actual person is highly active in the party with enough self-confidence to seek nomination to become a candidate for Parliament and tell Worth firmly where to go.

It is that disjunction which belies Goff's claim to have been "totally upfront". Quite why he thought the gap between image and reality was not a problem will be severely taxing the minds of his colleagues.

Goff has overplayed his hand, dragging things out for as long as he could and making claims about the text messages which have not lived up to expectations - most notably the text mentioning the infamous see-through blouse Worth is supposed to have suggested Choudary purchase but which turns out to be far less salacious.

Meanwhile, questions have been mounting about why, if Goff was alarmed by Worth's alleged behaviour, it took him so long to alert the Prime Minister to what Worth was doing.

Goff's defence is that he was hamstrung. Choudary asked him for help. She insisted on him not revealing her identity. He did the responsible thing and raised the allegations privately with the Prime Minister.He said he was given a reassurance the pestering would stop and Worth was on notice. That turned out not to be the case.

But there is where Goff should have left it - or left it for someone else in his caucus to pursue.

None of this absolves Worth. It just makes the whole episode more murky on all sides. There needs to be clarity over his alleged abuse of political patronage with offers of appointments to boards, quangos and other Crown entities seemingly in return for sexual favours.

A properly functioning democracy would see such allegations put in front of an independent inquiry post haste. That is where Goff should have focused his attention.