Key ups the stakes over tea tape
Prime Minister John Key has tried standing on principle over the so-called teapot tape and the issue has refused to die.
Which is why he upped the stakes today by deliberately walking out on a press conference rather than answer questions over the contents of the tape.
It was clearly a calculated move to drive a wedge between the media and the public over the issue.
Presumably National's focus groups are telling them that there is a high level of public distaste at the way the conversation between John Banks and Key was picked up.
From Key's actions today, it is clear that he believes his stance puts him on the right side of public opinion.
But with his opponents sniffing blood, what he did or did not say over the tea cups in his natter with ACT candidate Banks is now overshadowing everything else on the campaign trail.
There is just enough doubt about what was said in the conversation for questions to swirl around for the next week and a half.
It is time for Key to seek the release of the tape, or a transcript, and, if the conversation was as bland as he says, the public will form their own views about the motivation of those who hyped it up.
From what we know so far the conversation was titillating, rather than scandalous.
Key appears to have made a comment about NZ First having no future because its supporters were slowly dying off.
It's the sort of comment a political commentator might make without raising an eyebrow - though injudicious coming from a prime minister.
There also appears to have been discussion about the future of Don Brash.
The two men probably went over the same ground that has been widely canvassed in the media in the last few months: the ACT party is in disarray, Brash barely has the confidence of the party any more, that if there could have been a move against Brash before the election there would have been, and that the party is pinning its hopes on the likes of star candidate Catherine Isaacs to carry the torch in the future.
It's worth reminding both men that in a democracy these are surely things voters are entitled to know before they cast their votes.
If nothing else, any suggestion that there are firm plans to get Brash out of Parliament after the election justifies releasing the tape in the public interest.
The big surprise is that such seasoned political operators would have this type of conversation with a couple of dozen microphones and cameras pointed their way for a carefully managed photo opportunity that had been ramped up by National beforehand.
It might have been private - but not in any sense that the average person imagines privacy.
- Fairfax NZ