Bill English has damaged his leadership over the Todd Barclay affair and he has no one to blame but himself, well almost no one.

The damage would not have occurred at all if Todd Barclay had not been stupid enough to put a tape on his electorate secretary, with whom he was having an employment dispute.

If that hadn't happened, the only damage English would be facing three days out from his first party conference as Prime Minister, would be quite different.

Nicky Wagner's thoughtless tweet about the disability sector, Alfred Ngaro's arrogant speech about NGOs who criticise the Government, high-handed officials in Simon Bridges' office trying to stop OIA releases, budget errors in the Ministry of Health, and the credibility of the Auditor General would have been the main irritants in his Government's record.

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A doddle by comparison. Now the PM's own credibility is an issue because of what Barclay confided in him.

He sat by and allowed Barclay to deny and deflect allegations publicly in the hope it would eventually fade away.

English did not even behave properly when the text evidence first emerged on Newsroom yesterday that he had known about the secret recording for at least a year.

English stretched credulity by insisting he couldn't remember who told him, only later revealing that the police held evidence in his own statement that it was Todd Barclay himself who had told him.

Hearing someone's confession is not something you forget. No one believes Bill English forgot who told him. One of the most believable politicians suddenly defied belief.

The damage to English's leadership may have lessened marginally if Todd Barclay had offered his resignation from politics last night.

Instead in his so-called press conference, Barclay shows why he has to go.

Even in the face of an admission from the Prime Minister, Barclay talked in riddles to avoid saying anything that could be construed as an admission that he taped his secretary.

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He keeps repeating that he can't talk because of legal reasons but it is fairly obvious the legal reasons are fear of the law courts.

Barclay is damaging his party and damaging his leader.

He doesn't have much time to do the decent thing and announce his retirement from politics at the next election - a day at most.

If he doesn't, the National Party board has the power to rescind his membership for bringing the party into disrepute and effectively end his candidacy.

Whether Barclay goes quietly or unwillingly, it reflects very badly on English at the start of the election campaign.