We’re now on Day 7 of stories about Labour MPs accepting hospitality from Sky City at Eden Park, just weeks after campaigning that any agreement that gives them extra pokie machines is disgraceful and how gambling destroys people’s lives etc.
When I ran into Clayton Cosgrove leaving the Sky City box, I thought that I might be able to get a minor mention in the media for a day or two. I never thought Labour would be so politically incompetent that they would allow it to run for an entire week, ending up with an eventual confession from David Shearer that he was also there.
There’s four things Labour should have done, in order:
- Decline the invite. Say that you’ll take it up at some future event, not not just a few weeks after you’ve been savaging the convention centre deal.
- If you do attend, let the media know in advance that some MPs will be in attendance, and get your spin in first that the MPs wish to engage with Sky City as a major employer, but will be making their policy clear that they will pass a law repealing the convention centre deal. That way you get just one story on it, not a series of them.
- Once rumbled, immediately front up with which MPs were in attendance, rather than have the press gallery pack hunt down each MP individually to question them.
- Don’t do a partial denial about David Shearer being there. For two days they pushed the line that he was not a guest of Sky City, but eventually conceded that he did visit the box. Their claim he didn’t drink anything while there was correctly described by Steven Joyce as the “i did not inhale” defence.
This story could have been a one or two day wonder. Instead it was a major story again on 3 News last night, almost a week later.
I’m amazed that Labour’s political management was so lacking, that they didn’t front up to media requests on Sunday and Monday for a list of who was in attendance. Either the Labour whips and leader’s office didn’t know themselves – or worse they did know and thought it would be better to have the media drag the names out one by one all week.
And the partial denials over Shearer being there just made the media more determined to keep pursuing the story.