Given our short attention spans nowadays, this Todd Barclay scandal will probably shortly blow over for the National Party.

That's a pity.

It's a pity, because it shouldn't have been put to bed as neatly as it has. There shouldn't be just one guy taking the fall.

Yes, Barclay should've retired from politics.


The allegations that he secretly recorded a staff member's conversations are serious. They come with a jail term of up to two years, if proven.

That he confessed the recording to Bill English, but denied the recording to the rest of us is also serious. No one wants to pay the wages of a guy we're not sure we can trust.

But Barclay's exit will probably cauterise the crisis. At least that's what the National Party is hoping.

It's what they would call an "elegant solution". The guy who looks most guilty takes the fall, the bloodlust for a scalp is satisfied, New Zealand goes to sleep, wakes up and goes to work. Crisis over.

Except, the most junior National Party member involved should not be the only one held accountable. This rot goes right to the top.

We got an insight into how the National Party runs and, folks, it's ugly.

There are claims of hush money, claims of interference with a police investigation and claims of a cover up. It's like a plot from House of Cards, minus a murder on the train tracks.

Where's the accountability from the Prime Minister? Bill English said Barclay had privately confessed to making the recordings, yet he allowed the junior MP to deny the same fact publicly for a year.


Where's the accountability from board member Glenda Hughes who allegedly advised the staffer to withdraw the police complaint? If proven, that seems like obstruction of justice. That comes with a jail term of up to seven years.

The National Party is a party that knows how to silence a crisis. We saw it in 2014. The party sacrificed then Justice Minister Judith Collins in an attempt to shut down the Dirty Politics questions. Fast forward three years, Judith's back and the questions remain unanswered.

At least there's one bright point in this whole debacle and that's that we've been wised up.

Todd Barclay was right to resign after allegedly secretly taping a staff member. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Todd Barclay was right to resign after allegedly secretly taping a staff member. Photo / Mark Mitchell

English came into the job of Prime Minister seven months ago looking squeaky clean. Even hardcore lefties warmed to him a little. He seemed progressive. He believed in policies to help the most disadvantaged. He alone spoke out against the Dirty Politics behaviour when everyone else ducked and ran during that crisis.

But now Ethical Bill looks a whole lot less ethical.

Also, we've seen again how divided the National Party really is. John Key managed to make it look supremely united, but really, the backbenchers are angry at the senior ministers for imposing decisions on everyone else like generals issuing orders.

We saw signs of division when Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins had the audacity to run against the anointed Bill English for the leadership in December. We saw it this week when the senior ministers cut Barclay, while backbenchers continued supporting him. We saw it in the shock of junior MPs at how ruthless the affair became.

The more divided a party is, the more it leaks and undermines itself. The less it's able to hide cover ups and scandals from the public. The more likely we are to find out when things like this happen, and hold those responsible to account.

This time though, it looks like the most junior guy's taken the fall. Alone.