There’s been a lot written on Melissa Lee’s week from hell and the Chrisitne Rankin appointment but worthy of more investigation is how National left their star Mt Albert candidate and their fresh Westie Minister like fish flopping about on the rocks all week.
I’ve taken a few risks over my political life and every now and again got into trouble – sometimes big and sometimes not – sometimes public and sometimes not – sometimes fair and sometimes not.
But there was always a team that got around me. There was generally public support and more importantly support privately and personally. No matter how grumpy Helen, Michael, H2 or even Lange were with me they always ended our full and frank discussions with how to move forward together.
I suppose it is a bit like a sports team. When someone cocks up the measure of the strength of the team is the abilty to rally around support the individual and move move forward together. When they are abandoned then the team not just the individual is in trouble. The exception is when the indivdual is just cut loose – or dropped from the team. But that has to be public and clinical.
Remember, Melissa Lee was handpicked by Prime Minister John Key to stand in Mt Albert and don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, National harbour real ambitions of winning Mt Albert, Helen Clark’s former stronghold. At least they did until this week.
First up was a failure to prepare Lee for her appearance on TVNZ’s Q+A where she took the wrong tone and approach. She attacked Labour’s plans for a tunnel without having a view of her own and followed it up by continually interupting David Shearer. She also had a dig at David’s love of surfing. No one told her an announcement on the Waterview tunnel was just days away. Surely that would have been a nugget for her to use. Curious when part of her platform was that as a sitting MP she had the ear of government.
Come Monday, and still no one had bothered to let Lee know there was an announcement just 24 hours away so Lee declared she wanted a motorway bulldozed through Mt Albert. This forced Key to tell New Zealand his rising star was out of the loop on the decision. Strange.
On Tuesday, Transport Minister Stephen Joyce announced the amount the Nats were prepared to provide for the project. This killed the tunnel stone dead. When asked if he had briefed Lee on developments, Joyce replied “not yet”. This simply reinforced the impression she was out of the loop. Campbell Live then revealed concerns about Melissa Lee’s actions as a journalist before the last election including the allegation that taxpayer-funded staff and equipment were used to help produce a National campaign video, which doesn’t seem to be accounted for as an election expense returns.
By Wednesday, and the clanger of all clangers. Where was National’s support for her? Was anyone helping work out a legitimate line for her to use in what was always going to be a feisty meeting about Waterview? Instead, she was left exposed and under pressure, and we all know where that got her.
Along rolls Thursday morning, and with the fall out the only course of action was to apologise and shut the story down. Unfortunately, no one from National told Lee that before she went on radio to defend her comments, explain them, and kind of apologise but not really. Head office didn’t get an apology out of her until mid-afternoon. Far too late. By then though, the 9th floor spin doctors are running a mile from her campaign with a “nothing to do with us” line.
Now it’s Friday, and there’s spin that she’s struggled because she’s not used to campaigning, that by-elections are pressured environments, and that she hasn’t stood for an electorate seat before. Hang on, Key and National knew all about this when they pushed aside the loyal former candidate Ravi Musuku for Lee and quietly talked up her chances. Key has to take responsibility for a) choosing her and b) failing to support her properly. This is a serious gaffe.
Then there is the Christine Rankin lead ballon. Paula Bennett was warned at cabinet committee by several experienced colleagues that the proposal was a mistake but in this case Key backed her on the basis of incomplete information. Again now there is no one in the big team of very highly paid taxpayer funded press secretaries who is prepared back Bennett’s judgement or the process she followed.
In fact it is worse because at least one Minister has made their opposition clear and leaked that Turia sat mum while it went through the cabinet committee.
No wonder Key was so keen to call a press conference on his telephone call with Obama. But then the dopey twit accused me of giving TV3 the National Party Asian video produced by Melissa Lee. I first saw it on TV3 early this week. I presume they got it from YouTube. Thats where the Nats posted it. For a supposed young technosavey bright new PM the cracks are showing.