Todd Barclay fronts after revelations of secret recording
Embattled Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay will not resign despite new revelations and an embarrassing about-turn from the Prime Minister, in relation to an employment dispute at Barclay's Gore electorate office.
Barclay has repeatedly denied allegations he illegally recorded the conversations of one of his staff members, Glenys Dickson. He is now facing an investigation by his own party amid new allegations his re-selection was helped by "delegate stacking" with his family members and supporters.
Prime Minister Bill English was also dragged into the mire when he claimed on Tuesday morning that he did not recall who told him about the alleged recordings. He revealed four hours later he had in fact made a formal statement to police that Barclay had told him.
English's stunning about-turn not only contradicted Barclay's assertions the recordings did not exist, it also appeared to confirm English allowed Barclay to continue with his public denials, even after Barclay had privately admitted they did.
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"I had a conversation with him regarding Glenys Dickson leaving his office and he said to me that he had recordings of her criticising him," English told Detective Superintendent Peter Read in April 2016. Intercepting conversations you are not a party to, is a crime.
Following English's admission, Barclay read a carefully-worded apology for misleading the media, but refused to take questions.
Barclay has been dogged by the allegations since early last year, when staff in his electorate office began resigning en masse. Some alleged the first-term MP had been secretly recording them.
An investigation by Newsroom.co.nz reported on Tuesday morning that Dickson was paid hush money after learning of a dictaphone left running in the Gore office and then engaging an employment lawyer.
Barclay has refused to cooperate with a police investigation, and maintained he "did nothing wrong", but apologised for originally telling the media he had not spoken to English about the matter.
"I shouldn't have been as specific in my comments to the media today about the allegations, for legal reasons I am unable to comment further."
"As I've said in the past this has been a steep learning curve, I still have a lot to learn. I'm sorry if any of the answers I gave this morning were misleading."
It put a cap on a day New Zealand's youngest MP would rather likely forget, but instead he will be forced to turn his attention to remaining National's Clutha-Southland candidate for the September General Election.
National's rules committee, tasked with providing legal advice and support to the party board, is understood to be investigating nearly half of the 18 electorate branches in the Southland seat and could yet call for Barclay's selection to be revoked.
Newsroom.co.nz revealed in one electorate office in particular, Barclay's sister, his brother-in-law, his aunt and uncle, along with his current electorate staff member Bernadette Hunt all managed to become voting delegates in an electorate branch office outside of where they all resided.
ENGLISH CHANGES STORY THROUGHOUT DAY
Early on Tuesday morning after Newsroom.co.nz reported English had been personally involved in the employment dispute, he said he could not remember if that had been the case.
The Prime Minister told media he would go back and check the police report. He did, and at 2pm revealed that Barclay had told him that he had a recording of the staff-member criticising him.
"As a result of the questions this morning, I said that I had made a statement to police and I would go back and check it. I've gone back and checked that statement which was given in March or April last year," he said.
"In that statement I said to the police that Todd Barclay had told me that he had recordings of his staff criticising him."
The Prime Minister's office has released English's statement to police. In it he detailed his interactions with Barclay on the matter. Read the statement here.
English, who held Barclay's Clutha-Southland seat for 18 years, maintained as late as Tuesday morning it was "still unclear what, if anything, happened".
Attempting to explain his brain-fade, English said his statement was made 12 months ago.
"There was, as I said this morning, all sorts of things being said about different people," he said.
Police investigated the matter but Barclay – following advice from his lawyers – did not talk with them. The investigation was closed due to a lack of evidence.