Watkins critical of PM and Speaker


Unfinished business can be toxic in politics. Which is why Prime Minister should have ripped off the plaster and stripped her beleaguered minister Clare Curran of all her portfolios, rather than allow her to limp on with her authority undermined.

Curran already had form for doing the very same thing she was demoted over: failing to be upfront about dealings with people related to her portfolios.

Ardern will keep facing questions about why she failed to cut her loose.

The risk for Ardern is if Curran stuffs up again, the PM will be the one whose judgement will be in doubt.

Speaker has also created a vacuum that would only be filled by conspiracy theories and unanswered questions.

Having announced a full-scale inquiry into “limogate” leaking of Opposition leader Simon Bridges’s expenses just this week, he pulled the rug out from under it, creating bad blood between himself and National.

It is a decision seemingly based on an assumption that the texter is telling the truth. I don’t know who the texter and leaker is, but within National there is huge skepticism that the texter is as MP, as they claim. They may well be a National staffer, but the language used in the text (such referring to themselves as a member of caucus rather than just as an MP) just doesn’t sound like an MP. One person who has seen the text told me it sounded like a millennial.

Now they may be wrong. But canning the inquiry based on an assumption the texter is telling the truth was premature by the Speaker.

But having now been informed by police that the person concerned has mental health issues, Bridges has no way of knowing for sure whether that might be one of his MPs, a staff member, or even someone from the Speaker’s office.

An inquiry might have allowed Parliament to find that person and put support around them if necessary. Alternatively, it might have found that the text was a smokescreen.

But we may never know. Worse for Bridges, the finger of suspicion is now pointed at an internal leak, suggesting cracks in National’s unity. Mallard may not have done Labour many favours either. National’s response will be to blow smoke about the Speaker’s motives.

I’d say confidence in the Speaker from National MPs is rock bottom. Worse than when Margaret Wilson was Speaker.

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