The Herald uses its editorial to tell Winston Peters to stop digging. He should also start apologising.
It was one thing to make a denial without checking all possible sources of his financial support, and flourish a silly sign to news cameras, but Mr Peters did not hear alarm bells even when the Herald discovered an email in which Mr Glenn asked a public relations adviser, “You are saying I should deny giving a donation to NZ First? When I did?”
A wiser man would have run a quick check on all sources of funds related to his personal political activities and his party. Instead our Foreign Minister descended to baseless and disgraceful allegations of his own – against the integrity of this newspaper, its editor, and our fair-minded political editor, Audrey Young.
Definitely not the actions of a wise man.
We were not particularly surprised by that response. Mr Peters has made a career of bluff and bluster and convincing enough poor voters that the media is the enemy. But we have been surprised at his behaviour since he was forced on Friday to concede Audrey Young’s disclosures are true.
At least, that is what he should have conceded. An honourable and decent public figure would acknowledged his error and apologised to her in the course of explaining himself. Mr Peters did neither. After his lawyer, Brian Henry, told him Mr Glenn had in fact contributed $100,000 to his legal costs in 2006, Mr Peters put out a statement that was not only devoid of apology or regret but attempted to give himself some wriggle room in semantics.
This was not an honorable or decent statement.
He did not make a donation to the NZ First Party,” he said of Mr Glenn, “he made a donation to a legal action he thought justified”. Later, at his party’s 15th anniversary conference, Mr Peters maintained this desperate distinction. “Not one cent went to NZ First and not one cent went to me,” he insisted. “A donation was made to a legal case which is a massive difference … “
No, it is not. He brought a case against the election spending of the MP who captured his Tauranga seat. The law hears those actions in the name of individuals, not parties. Had the petition succeeded, the beneficiaries would have been Mr Peters, if the seat had been restored to him, and his party, since an electorate gives a party more secure representation in Parliament. Mr Glenn obviously believed he was contributing to NZ First and to all intents and purposes, he was.
Indeed, it might disturb Mr Glenn to hear that the donation was technically not for a party’s legal action but for an individual MP’s, because that MP is the country’s Foreign Minister and the Monaco-based billionaire would like to be appointed our honorary consul there. It is a humble enough request from an expatriate who leads a multi-national logistics enterprise and has given millions to his country of birth, most recently to endow the new Auckland University business school that carries his name.
Except that buying honary appointments isn’t supposed to happen in an open democracy.
He was also the Labour Party’s largest donor at the last election, a connection noted when he was named in the New Year Honours. Labour weathered that news easily enough and NZ First could have done likewise, had Mr Peters not foolishly denied it. He has put himself in this hole and he would be smarter to stop digging.
And start apologising. Sorry really isn’t that hard to say if you understand what you’ve done is wrong; refusing to say it suggests he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care.