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Key's failure of leadership on Coleman

3 December 2006

Key's failure of leadership on Coleman

Just one week into the job National leader John Key has made a significant misstep by confirming Jonathan Coleman as Associate Health Spokesman despite knowing about Coleman's behaviour during an incident with British American Tobacco, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Media reports today say Coleman was the guest of British American Tobacco at last weekend's U2 concert in Auckland. Coleman is reported to have lit up a cigar in a crowded area, drawing complaints from people in neighbouring corporate boxes. Witnesses claim he then blew smoke into the face of a woman while directing expletives at her, drawing a violent response from another concert attendee.

"Coleman's judgement and behaviour would be questionable for any MP, but his role as Associate Health Spokesman makes today's news especially troubling," Pete Hodgson said. "Jonathan Coleman accepted perks from a tobacco company, smoked in a crowded place, and cursed and blew smoke at those who complained.

"While Coleman's judgement is startling, it pales in comparison to John Key's judgement not to discipline Coleman for his actions. He knew about the incident ahead of last week's reshuffle, which would have been an easy opportunity to move Coleman out of the role.

"Instead Key left Coleman in the job and promoted him up the caucus rankings. This was an easy call and it's a call that Key got wrong. His public comments today that seek to minimise the seriousness of Coleman's behaviour and make excuses for it only multiply Key's misjudgement."

The Coleman incident follows claims in Nicky Hager's book of links between the tobacco lobby and the National Party.

"Smoking kills thousands of New Zealanders every year. We are making tremendous progress on reducing smoking rates in this country and it is extremely disappointing that the National Party is failing to show leadership on this issue."

ENDS

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