If there was going to be a man overboard yesterday, it sure as hell was not going to be John Key.
OPINION: It started just half an hour before he faced a grilling at his weekly press conference about why John Banks had not been stood down, given accusations swirling around him about his handling of two $25,000 donations from Kim Dotcom.
After the literally irreplaceable ACT leader had for days insisted he had nothing to add, a press statement was rushed out to the press gallery adding some very relevant information indeed. Crucially Mr Banks denied calling Mr Dotcom to thank him for the donations; something he had refused to deny over the weekend.
If that had been proven, then Mr Banks' claim that the donations were anonymous to him would have been 20 fathoms under. And there is no doubt proof of the call – if not a recording of the conversation – could be easily found, so it was only prudent for Mr Banks to front foot the fact there had been contact between the two about "other matters".
It enabled Mr Key to better deflect queries about why Mr Banks was still on deck, though the prime minister hardly covered himself with glory by arguing it was only the legality – not the "wide definition" of ethics or the "spirit of the law"– by which Mr Banks should be judged.
Within minutes Labour was floating quotes from Mr Key in the parallel Winston Peters-Owen Glenn donation furore in 2008 (when phone records did emerge), including the thundering: "Helen Clark must stand Mr Peters down as a minister. That is what I would do if I were prime minister."
But Mr Key did not stop at piling on the pressure for Mr Banks to rebut the "thank-you call".
In a move purloined from the Australian conservative parties' playbook, he went straight for the illegal immigrants. "Tough new measures" would "stop queue jumping" by masses of boat people.
Law would be rushed into the House this week and passed ... oh, before the end of the year.
As a distraction from the difficult case of Mr Banks and the anonymous quicksand, it was about as blatant as they come.
- The Dominion Post