Helen Clark said that Owen Glenn told her in February that he’d given a $100,000 donation to New Zealand First.
The Prime Minister then put that information to the party’s leader Winston Peters at the time and he gave her an assurance that the party had not received money from Mr Glenn.
This new information this morning means Helen Clark has known for months of the conflicting sides of the story which were publicly revealed yesterday in letters to Parliament’s privileges committee.
And yet she stood by her man.
Helen Clark said the question of donations to New Zealand First was on the front page of the paper when she and Mr Glenn were at Auckland University to open its new business school, on February 21.
“Mr Glenn on that occasion said to me pretty much what he said to the Privileges Committee,” the Prime Minister said this morning.
“As you would expect, the first thing that I did was go away and ring Mr Peters, and Mr Peters has consistently maintained that he never made that phone call to Mr Glenn,” she said, referring to the solicitation of the donation.
“So, there’s always been a conflict of evidence.”
Helen Clark said that at every time the issue had arisen, she had rung Mr Peters and asked for his word.
And every time she took his word rather than that of Glenn.
One of the first things I learnt at journalism school was the importance of asking the right questions. Another lesson was the importance of verifying information.
Asking for the word of a man who has repeatedly shown he can’t give a straight answer is not enough. Clark should have asked more questions and, given the conflict between what Glenn and Peters told her, she should have done all she could to verify the facts.
Not doing so while the allegations not only swirled but multiplied was either stupid or she was turning a blind eye for political opportunism; and she’s not usually stupid.
The Prime Minister also criticised Mr Peters’ handling of the issue since it arose, appearing to try to put some distance between herself and her Foreign Minister.
Too late for that, they’re welded together because he needs her support and she needs his votes.
While she said she wanted to see the matter “dealt with”, Helen Clark said she felt she had a duty to be fair.
What about her duty to be fair to her colleagues who are treated with a lot less leniency; or to the public or to New Zealand which has had a proud reputation for a lack of corruption?
“I have not known Mr Peters to lie to me, and I have to take people as I find them,” she said.
“He is utterly convinced that he never made that call.”
And how difficult would it be to prove if that was true? If you’ve got what it takes to run the country you need what it takes to get the truth.
Hat Tip: Keeping Stock