English left spluttering over question

02:02, Aug 27 2014
Southland Times photo
ON THE SPOT: Deputy Prime Minister Bill English speaks in Queenstown. He found himself uncharacteristically tongue tied when asked whether he would sack Justice Minister Judith Collins over revelations in Nicky Hagerís "Dirty Politics" book.

Bill English was enjoying his final Queenstown presentation as Otago Southland electorate MP before a full crowd until the question that left him tongue tied.

"Would you have saved Judith Collins, if you were prime minister?" ASB Great Debate host Duncan Garner asked the deputy prime minister.

"That's a hypothetical question," was his first response. "You've gotta . . . Look . . . I'm not the prime minister. In the end that's the prime minister's job," he struggled until let off the hook.

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It started with a question from the audience asking English and his colleagues on stage, Conservative leader Colin Craig, Labour deputy leader David Parker, ACT leader Jamie Whyte and Green co-leader Russel Norman, what priority they would put on honesty and integrity while governing New Zealand.

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Immediately it moved to Nicky Hager's latest book Dirty Politics and emails revealed between Justice Minister Judith Collins and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

English was congratulated for not having his name anywhere near the book and was asked for his thoughts on honesty and integrity.

"I happen to think our political system does have a high degree of integrity . . . Have you tried watching the Australian political circus for more than about two days at a time? It's just feral by comparison."

Craig believed New Zealand politics had moved towards more backroom deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while Parker described as an "outrage" the 37 minutes it took Slater to have an OIA request approved.

Norman took issue with the interception of Labour Party emails by a National Party staff member while a security system was disabled and was concerned it was condoned by the prime minister.

"What are we doing here? What is he saying? He's the prime minister of our country," he said.

The Southland Times