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Bill English's Right Talk - 2 September 2003

The Right Talk, The Leader's view
2 September 2003

"I'm simply the greatest"

After one of the greatest con-jobs in recent New Zealand political history over Corngate, Prime Minister Helen Clark now declares herself to be a victim of her own greatness. Without the slightest hesitation or self-doubt the Labour Leader told her Monday press conference: "I am a victim of my own success as a competent and popular Prime Minister." This was after trying to dismiss the evidence that she has been involved in yet another outrageous cover-up. If we go back to the election-time allegation of Labour turning a blind eye to GM contaminated corn, we can see evidence of New Zealand Labour adopting the identical tactics of British Labour's spin doctoring under the arch manipulator Alastair Campbell. That's not so surprising as Helen Clark sent a senior spin doctor to London to study under Campbell. Firstly there was the "heavy breathing" tactic with reporters. The scribes were told by the Prime Minister and her minders that the allegations were untrue, the subject complex, and she had been subjected to an unfair ambush. Then came the second phase, the vast "document drop" to add confusion. This was aimed at giving substance to Labour's claims of having nothing to hide. But, alas, several key documents were withheld from the drop, even though Helen Clark had pledged total openness. If these papers had been included they would have provided evidence, in mid election campaign, that Labour did indeed know about the contamination. Labour's poll rating plunged after the Corngate revelation by TV3. Confirmation could possibly have cost Labour the election. Helen Clark's denials of involvement simply don't stand up now. More will come out about this in Parliament.

The good Doctor's reward

Dr Mark Prebble, Head of the Prime Minister's Department, has taken the rap for withholding the missing documents from the election campaign drop. Helen Clark has tried to give the impression that she did not know about the missing papers or the decision to withhold them. But one of the missing papers shows that the damaging nature of the papers was realised and that the release had been discussed with the Prime Minister, who was prepared to have the sensitive papers released if necessary. The "if necessary" gives the clue. Dr Prebble took the hint and withheld the papers. For all his efforts to save his boss he is now being told he made a mistake. Either the good doctor or the spin doctor may follow the ousted Alastair Campbell down the road after all this, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Helen Clark won't 'fess up.

The sequel to Paintergate

Corngate might be the latest of Helen Clark's cover-ups, but there have been plenty of others. In the Paintergate saga it was discovered that Helen Clark had signed a painting by someone else, which then went to auction. When the Police began inquiries after a forgery complaint, Helen Clark refused to co-operate and answer Police questions. The evidence itself had been destroyed beforehand by a Clark staff member. More recently Helen Clark denied knowing about the politically correct "ancestral landscape" clauses in the Resource Management Act. National produced the documents. These proved that not only did the clauses come from Helen Clark's own Department of Culture and Heritage, but also that they were personally approved by the Prime Minister. She had to apologise to Parliament for misleading the House on that one. Keep watching this space.


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