For six years now, John Key's enemies have hunted for ways to dent his armour, remove the sheen and strip back the Teflon.

It is a simple formula — take out Key and you take out National.

And so far this campaign there's been all sorts of tricks to get to Key — "F-John Key" chants, anti-Semitic graffiti, the clever blues song Planet Key and even a burning effigy. None of those really worked and, as usual, Key has charged on through.

But it turns out the thing that could hurt Key, one of his worst enemies, is actually within. It comes in the form of Jason Ede, Key's senior staffer.


Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics ties Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater to Ede and, therefore, to Key.

Ede is, of course, one of Key's allies but the triangle he has created now requires more damage control than the best Key's opponents have thrown at him.

Ede has turned out to be a serious weak link for Team Key, far more damaging than a thousand burning effigies.

There's plenty of argument about what Hager's book means and what's been proved and what's wrong. But it's the narrative that will be worrying Key and National's strategists.

It is this simple — Brand Key does not want to be associated with Brand Whaleoil.

In right-wing politics, Brand Key is Dom Perignon Champagne. Brand Whaleoil is DB Draught. Both have their uses to the right, but you don't put them together.

Key wants to be out kissing babies or having photo ops with Sir Peter Jackson, not looking rattled answering questions about Ede and Whaleoil.

And with five weeks until election day, Key is in a real bind politically — he cannot take a backward step.


Any investigation or taking any action would be seen as an admission of political guilt.

That's why Key is dismissing one of the most concerning of Hager's allegations about how Ede and Slater poked around in Labour's membership database.

The Prime Minister is saying a security flaw meant the database was open, so no problem.

Key's opponents are saying just because somebody's back door is open you don't go in and look through their drawers, taking what you want.

But Key cannot concede anything — his only form of defence is attack. This is why Key is backing Judith Collins.

The book has put her back on the political agenda, too. She's back to her old, snarky self and that will worry Key, too.

There's a lot of faux outrage from the Labour Party about dirty politics. Let's face it, if five years of Labour's emails were leaked there'd be a similar book.

It was a dirty week in politics, the dirtiest for a while. It's coming from all sides. But there's been dirty weeks before and will be again.

There is a filthy atmosphere in the political air and voters can only hope it doesn't linger for the entire campaign.

It was no surprise there was a Super Moon last Sunday: it unleashed the political werewolves.

And the King Tide of political dirt ended up at the Prime Minister's door.

Patrick Gower is the Political Editor for 3News. He also co-hosts The Nation on Saturdays.
Debate on this article is now closed.