Young and Espiner on Peters

Both and blogged yesterday on Winston Peters. I’ll start with Audrey:

It has become a lot clearer now as to why the spin machine has been in overdrive for months over ’s character – and it has been awful.

Note how Audrey says Labour has been denigrating Glenn, their largest donor, for months.

They were worried about what he would say about them, not just Winston Peters.

And he has said it – that he consulted before ringing Peters on December 14 to agree to give him $100,000 for the Tauranga electoral petition.

And more importantly that he told back in February that he had given Peters $100,000 for Peters’ legal fees. He reiterated that point at a press conference this morning at the Hilton Hotel in Auckland.

And the records back Glenn. He had brunch with Mike Williams and phoned Winston at 11.30 am Sydney time. It would have been mere minutes after Williams had left, if he had left. Glenn says there is no way he would have donated without Labour’s okay, which he got from Mike Williams.

Williams’ reputation has already suffered badly from the Labour Party conference episode – he denied having endorsed the distribution of Government literature when a tape recording proved he had actually said it was “a damned good idea”.

He lied about something he said in front of 500 people, so indeed his denials in this case have to be judged in that context.

Labour has been saying for ages it would be terrific if Owen Glenn appeared in person before the privileges committee because people could assess for themselves his credibility – or lack of it; how easily confused he gets.

Having heard him at privileges, seen him on Campbell Live, heard him being interview by Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon and heard parts of the press conference at the Hilton today, it is hard to fault his credibility.

Michael Cullen tripped him up over one of the paragraphs of his testimony – the matter of whether he had called Winston or Winston had called him in early December.

But Glenn has been cogent, coherent, sane, sharp, in command of his senses and memory and very colourful.

Indeed. And he has factual evidence that supports his version of events – a version that has never significantly altered.

It is hard to imagine how Peters and can counter the damning phone records and email testimony.

And they failed to do so yesterday.

If Glenn is telling the truth, then how can Peters and Henry account for the “third person” – the alleged client they told the privileges committee existed.

I would bet money that the alleged third person is Roger McClay, whose taxpayer funded job appeared to be raising money for NZ First and Winston.

And how they account for the press statement issued on July 18 a few hours after Peters’ mother died saying Henry had just told him about the Glenn donation.

I feel sickened at the thought of it.

That’s an honest raw emotion. And it is sickening when you think of it. Owen Glenn has proven beyond reasonable doubt Peters solicited the money and knew of it. So if you believe Owen Glenn (and Peters has failed to cast serious doubt on it), then Peters knew all along, and hence the announcement of his “having just found out from Brian Henry” on 18 July was a deliberate decision to release the information a few hours after the news of his mother’s death filtered out.

I also feel sick even typing the above, but that is the only conclusion one can draw, if you accept Owen Glenn’s version of events. I know that is ultra harsh, but again unless Owen Glenn is a pathological liar, then the decision to release the truth about the donation was deliberately timed.

Colin Espiner looks at Labour’s role:

I thought Clark suffered a rare pasting in Parliament this afternoon, with National leader John Key finally getting on a roll and managing to land a few punches on the Prime Minister: “The reason she has never sacked Winston Peters is  because she is up to her eyeballs in this and what happened yesterday was that the truth jetted into town.”

It was a great line – so good he repeated it at least three more times. It’s a pity National didn’t follow this up with a more sustained assault rather than reverting to business-as-usual questions. But Key was right, however; Clark is up to her neck in this fiasco and it’s plain she’s had enough.

At a minimum Helen Clark knew the truth in February 2008. However she may have known as far back as December 2005. She was never asked in the House yesterday whether or not she had any discussions at all, of any sort, with Mike Williams over Owen Glenn helping out with the Tauranga electoral petition. She was asked some questions on her knowledge, but said (off memory) that she had not had a conversation of that nature – it was a denial of a specific allegation, not a denial of any conversations at all with Williams in 2005 over Glenn.

I reckon if she does sack Peters she will call the election date as well. It would be a good way of brushing the ongoing fiasco off the front pages and cutting Peters and his party loose. Not that she’ll need to do that – NZ First will be furious if she sacks Peters before the privileges committee reports back and its agreement with Labour will be toast.

That won’t bother Clark – the last time she needs NZ First’s votes is later today, when the Emissions Trading Scheme has its third and final reading.

But NZ First will have a point. Clark has long championed Peters’ right to due process and natural justice. Sacking him half-way through the hearing would be a bit like the judge at a murder trial telling the defence that she’s heard enough – just take him out the back and hang him.

But politics doesn’t really operate like a court – even at the privileges committee, supposedly one of the highest courts in the land. Politics is neither as orderly as a court nor as fair.  And it’s becoming obvious that Peters’ right to natural justice exists only as long as it is politically expedient for Clark to allow it.

There’s no question she is running out of time. Peters is an albatross around her neck and if she doesn’t cut the strings soon she will sink along with him.

I hope she delays the decision as long as possible then!

As I blogged yesterday, the key issue is not so much whether Clark sacks Peters, but whether she rules out a post-election deal with NZ First.

John Key has said he will not strike a deal with NZ First, even if it means staying in Opposition rather than becoming Prime Minister. Will Clark rule out a deal if she sacks Peters, but somehow NZ First gets back in?

UPDATE: My wish is granted. Clark is delaying a decision until next week, after Brian Henry’s next appearance.

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