Lawyer stands by allegations

ANDREA VANCE AND JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 16:46 07/05/2013
Fairfax NZ

Shamed MP Aaron Gilmore says he is not proud of his behaviour, apologising by saying "if there was a dickhead... it was me".

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The lawyer who dined with shamed MP Aaron Gilmore on a boozy night in resort town Hanmer Springs stands by his allegations that the list MP threatened to get the prime minister's office involved to have a waiter sacked.

Gilmore, the 59th-ranked National list MP, fronted a press conference at Parliament this morning to apologise for his behaviour towards a hotel waiter, saying he was rude and a bully.

Christchurch lawyer Andrew Riches, who dined with Gilmore, was so embarrassed by the MP's behaviour that he left the waiter an apology note.

Riches alleged Gilmore asked the barman "Do you know who I am?" and threatened to have Prime Minister John Key intervene to have him sacked.

Gilmore today denied both allegations.

''There was no involvement of the prime minister's office. I had a discussion with the barman over my understanding of the liquor laws, and that I understood someone could be fired if they served a drunk person... I did not use the words 'Do you know who I am?'."

Asked whether he was accusing Riches of lying, Gilmore said: ''Look, he had as much, if not more, to drink than I. I know exactly what I had to drink that evening. I do not know exactly what Mr Riches had to consume that evening, but he had at least as much I did. The words that he used to describe the incident were not the words that I believe I said.''

Gilmore said his group was not denied service until he went to pay the bill and wanted to buy another bottle of wine to take to his room.

''He [the barman] didn't know who I was. I gave him my card. He asked, 'Who are you?' I said, 'I'm a member of Parliament, I have an understanding of the alcohol laws and I understand you can be fired for serving drunk persons','' he said.

''He then said, 'Do you know the prime minister?' My response was: 'Yes, I work for him'.''

But today Riches said he stood by his original statement. It was "considered in detail before release" and he would not back down on it.

"I stand by this statement and the events of the past week have not caused me to resile in any way," he said.

"I will be making no further comment and will allow the public to draw their own conclusions."

Asked whether he called the waiter a dickhead, Gilmore said: ''I'm not 100 per cent certain whether I used the word dickhead or dick, or words to that extent to the barman at that stage.''

Gilmore denied allegations of sleazy conduct and clicking his fingers at waiting staff.

''Look, there was no sleazy behaviour that was carried out by myself that I am aware of. I think those scandalous comments are completely out of line and I'm not here to talk about my relationships or anything that occurred, other than apologise for my comments to a barman.''

'I WAS A DICKHEAD'

Shamed MP Aaron Gilmore says he is not proud of his behaviour in a Hanmer Springs hotel, apologising by saying "if there was a dickhead that night, it was me".

It was claimed he abused a waiter, demanding "Don't you know who I am?" and threatened to have Prime Minister John Key intervene to have him sacked.

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"I'm sorry for my arrogance and rudeness to the barman when I was leaving the restaurant, Gilmore told a media conference today.

"If there was a dickhead that night it was me.

"No service industry worker deserved to be treated rudely. I behaved badly and I crossed the line. It will not happen again."

Gilmore says he drank "three glasses of wine and three beers over the entire evening ranging from 6.30pm to 10.45pm".

He apologised to the the party, Key and to all MPs. He said he had also written to the hotel, which has said it would not make an official complaint.

"My actions were unbecoming and embarrassing," Gilmore said.

"I learnt a tough lesson. One that I definitely don't want to repeat."

He also apologised to his family, friends and partner.

His voice cracked as he said: "This past week has been one of hell for them, and I'm sorry for the hurt distress and worry my actions have caused."

Gilmore said Key was very disappointed.

But Gilmore said he wouldn't resign "for a number of reasons".

"I still believe I have a contribution to make to Parliament and I hope I can put this lack of judgement behind me," he said.

"Finally, if there is one thing I have learnt, it is that I need to operate my life with far more dignity, humility and grace."

Asked if he has an arrogant streak, Gilmore replied: "I'm not here to say that I don't have an ability to be rude and arrogant to a number of persons. Hence my statement that in my life generally I need to have a bit more humility and grace."

Gilmore went from the media conference to a caucus meeting, where he was expected to receive a dressing down from MP colleagues.

Key, on his way into the caucus meeting, said there was never an expectation that Gilmore would resign.

"It's extremely important that he does say sorry because in the end the expectation on MPs, rightfully so, is that they adhere to a high level of behaviour," Key said. 

'FAILURE TO SHOW LEADERSHIP'

Labour leader David Shearer said John Key failed to show leadership by not calling Gilmore to get an explanation.

"The prime minister has just left it alone. He'll pick up the phone to talk to somebody to get him a job in GCSB but he won't pick up the phone to actually talk to his own MP. I find that extraordinary," Shearer said, referring to Key's call to old family friend Ian Fletcher over the top job at the Government Communications Security Bureau.

"I can tell you if it had been one of my MPs they would have had a 'please explain' within a few minutes," Shearer said.

Key yesterday said he had an exchange of texts with Gilmore, who had apologised for his behaviour, but he had not talked to him directly, leaving that to his chief of staff Wayne Eagleson.

Shearer said Gilmore now had to redeem himself by proving to the public that he was fit to be an MP.

"What he said was pretty unwise. One of the things you do learn in politics from day one is humility and being humble and he has certainly violated that.

"I can't quite understand why he didn't say sorry from the very beginning. If he had done that a lot of this would have been unnecessary"

He said Gilmore's behaviour was unacceptable but kicking someone out of the caucus depended on how contrite they were and whether they were prepared to front up immediately.

Gilmore had waited a week to front up and it looked as if he had been pushed into an apology.

- Stuff

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