Poor old Labour. It’s worth taking a minute to imgaine the elation they must have felt for a few days there: they finally had that fucker Key dead cold. Perjury. Fraud. Victory.
Labour president Mike Williams spent several days last week reading court documents in Melbourne, backed up by Wellington-based members of the party research unit.
Last weekend, the party believed it had a smoking gun – a signature on the A$39m first H-Fee cheque bearing a striking resemblance to Mr Key’s. Senior party figures advocated making the document public immediately.
Within days, though, court documents proved that what would have been the campaign’s most explosive allegation was wrong. The January 11 cheque was actually signed by an Australian-based executive of the firm Mr Key worked for.
Colin Espiner has blogged about the origins of this non-scandal:
So where did the Herald story come from? Well as it turns out, from the president of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, who it turns out has been in Melbourne researching it from 13,000 pages of court documents. Did Williams have better things to do during an election campaign than trawl through 20-year-old court records looking for dirt on Key? Apparently not.
What’s interesting is that Labour leader Helen Clark is running a mile from this story. She is refusing to even say whether she thinks it raises questions about Key’s integrity or honesty. Her office says Williams is running this show, not Clark, and while the president may think Key has questions to answer, she’s not making any comment.
Vernon Small at the Dom-Post also has some interesting insights into how the story was propagated:
The saga began when a pile of court and other documents were dropped in a Dominion Post reporter’s letterbox wrapped in a copy of the Otago Daily Times. That was followed by an anonymous text and several drops of further documents from someone calling himself Batman. All pointed to Mr Key and the H-fee scheme.
David Farrar points out that The Standard recently featured a guest-post written by someone called Batman that discussed Keys involvement with the H-Fee, and that The Standard have recently deleted the post.
My (totally uninformed) guess is that Williams and his little helpers found their evidence on Key during the weekend and set events in motion to get the story out there as soon as possible, but the Prime Minister – who is super-cautious when it comes to stunts like this – told them to hold back until she was confident the story was sound. When it transpired that they had nothing they’d already primed the story in the media. It’s hard to walk a story back when its being spread by a guy called ‘Batman’ sending reporters anonymous text messages.
So this is all pretty embarrassing but it could have been SO much worse. Imagine if Labour had gone big with this on Monday or Tuesday night only to have National reveal that it was someone elses’s name on the cheque.
– UPDATED: IrishBill from The Standard has pointed out in the comments that contrary to DPFs claims they haven’t deleted their post by ‘Batman’, merely changed the attribution from being a web-site author to a guest post. It also occurs to me that DPFs outrage towards The Standard is a bit rich for a guy who’s travelling around the country with disturbed National Party activist Cameron Slater, who has spent the election campaign fabricating some pretty spectacular smears of his own, the general loathsomeness of which make the current allegations against Key look mild indeed.