What is so hard about offering an apology, Prime Minister?

John Key would do himself and National a power of good if he dropped the feeble charade which sees him in denial of the dirty tricks operation that was run out of his office by one Jason Ede - something first raised in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics and now confirmed by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn.

Her inquiry into the release back in 2011 of Security Intelligence Service documents to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater shows Ede, then a senior political adviser working in Key's Beehive office, was donkey deep in the attempt to embarrass the then Labour leader, Phil Goff.

It is all there in Gwyn's report in black and white. The Prime Minister's response yesterday was to argue black is white.

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John Key's performance during Parliament's question time was breathtaking. Breathtakingly silly. It involved either not answering the questions raining down on him from the Opposition or flinging red herring after red herring at his inquisitors in a vain attempt to divert debate away from what had been going on in his office.

It was a display unworthy of the Prime Minister. However, Key is now obliged to maintain the pretence no matter how ridiculous it looks.

An apology for the whole episode would, in contrast, make up for the absence of heads rolling. It would show Key took ministerial responsibility seriously. It would be the icing on the cake of Key's sensible and much-needed reform of lines of accountability when it comes to oversight of the country's intelligence agencies. It would make it more difficult for Opposition parties to use the Gwyn report as an excuse to reject the legislation now before Parliament extending those agencies' powers.

Above all, it would bring the resurfacing of material in Hager's book to a close.

The apology option was apparently discussed after the Government received Gwyn's report last weekend, but rejected. For starters, no political party likes to yield even a millimetre to its opponents. But the worry was that an apology would amount to an admission of guilt and only intensify Opposition calls for a further inquiry.

Fundamentally, however, National believes no apology is necessary because the whole affair is complex and not something exercising the minds of most people. National, therefore, thinks it can get away with it because Key always gets away with it.

The danger for National is that the same complacency is operating when something else comes along which cannot be dismissed so easily, so presumptuously and so cynically.

Debate on this article is now closed.

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