The day after the Police were prompted to reopen the Todd Barclay case, it has emerged that Parliamentary Services were apparently made aware of the contents of the conversations recorded by Todd Barclay’s dictaphone. One of the conversations allegedly mentioned matters to do with “sex and drugs”.
Sordidly fascinating. The sort of spectacle that fuels many a gossip mill, however improper and certainly inappropriate it might be. Except that in this case, I think for most New Zealanders it will viewed with a considerable degree of disgust.
The Todd Barclay saga is not likely to get much worse than it already is, unless the police charge Mr Barclay with something. It is however certainly going to keep rumbling on and prove to be a distraction for National, flinging mud helter skelter to the Opposition’s glee.
However, it is election year. Parliament dissolves soon and this is likely to be still in people’s minds when they go to the polling booths on 23 September 2017. National will certainly be hoping that most people have moved on by then. Except that two major problems lie in the way of that happening:
- It involves the Prime Minister who also happens to be from Clutha-Southland
- It involves money from the fund of Prime Minister John Key which was paid out as a settlement to stop the National Party agent whose conversations were recorded from taking further action
Whilst I do not think Clutha-Southland, the second bluest electorate in the country will change its electoral colours, I do think whoever National stands in the electorate will wake up on 24 September with a hugely reduced majority. The fact that many National Party staffers and loyalists down there were wondering about Mr Barclay’s suitability to be an M.P. and frissons of tension at the National Party conference over the weekend just gone, suggest to me that the National brand is certainly damaged goods.
So, where to from here? That depends on the police investigation. Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First will be looking to make as much hay as they can from it, and will continue to pepper Mr English and Mr Barclay in Parliament with questions over the issue. National – and A.C.T. for purposes of having a coalition partner after the election – will be hoping that this runs out of steam soon.
Unfortunately for National, it also depends on how willing the people of New Zealand are to forgive them. Given the duration of this scandal in time before the public knew and the fact it falls in an election year where National is desperate for a fourth term, and history does not favour such governments in peace time, this might be the straw that breaks the camels back.