The Prime Minister, the police and a rookie MP have all emerged from the trenchcoat and trilby secret taping affair with dirt on their hands. Although that sort of garb in the deep south would be a little out of place, more like black singlet and gummies with a roll yer own, hanging from the corner of the mouth.

But there's nothing funny about the saga involving Bill English, his successor in the Clutha Southland seat, National's youngest MP Todd Barclay and the police. It's shabby showing a lack of leadership, deceit and possible subterfuge.

Bill English showed a lack of leadership when he allowed his most junior MP to refuse to cooperate with the police when he all along knew Barclay had secretly recorded staff in his Gore office bagging him. English was duty bound to tell Barclay to cooperate with the law given English knew that his MP could well have broken the law.

English was clearly having a bad hair day, forgetting quite a lot in the morning about who told him what on his way into caucus and then in the afternoon having a good recall of how things unfolded once he read his police statement.

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The deceit comes from Barclay who has all along denied there was a recording, and threatened those who pursued the line with legal action. He was asked yesterday morning whether he'd told English he had recordings of his staff and he replied with a categorical no.

Then he emerged late in the day and confirmed he'd told porkies, that there was a recording saying he was sorry if any of the answers he gave earlier in the day were misleading in any way. Barclay said it'd been a steep learning curve for him and he's still got a lot to learn.

Yeah well not to embarrass your Government three months out from an election would be a start, embarrassment that'll continue until he learns when to call it a day.

But the police aren't covered in glory either, releasing requests under the Official Information Act in March but leaving out the vital English statement. Was it that they were embarrassed at their inability to talk to the star witness and were therefore forced to close the case or was it that they didn't want to upset their political paymasters?

Perhaps they'd like to have a look at the case again, given information that the recordings didn't come from a dictaphone left lying around, as had been claimed, it 's said to have come from CCTV camera surreptitiously planted in the MP's office by a security firm to spy on his staff, which would be an offence under the Crimes Act.