Sep 12, 2008

Herald On Peters And Glenn - Glenn Has Earned His Honour Doubly Now

And we agree pretty much with all of the Herald Editorial today. The PM and Winston are going to have a bad weekend.

Owen Glenn came back to a country he still calls his own, to deliver a coup de grace to Winston Peters. He did it without apparent malice but simply to tell the truth. He was under no obligation to go so far out of his way. Having taken the trouble to reply to Parliament's privileges committee by letter, and heard his name still being maligned here, nobody could have blamed him had he washed his hands of a mess that must seem minor from Monaco.

We have one of Mr Peters' MPs to thank for Mr Glenn's illuminating visit this week. He says it was when Dail Jones called him a liar that he decided to go back through his records and bring the telling evidence to the committee. Armed with telephone records, email, and a sworn affidavit from a corroborating witness he was able to prove to the satisfaction of the fair-minded that it is not him who is the liar. Mr Peters, he said, personally solicited the donation in the telephone call shown on his records, and personally thanked him for it when they met at the Karaka horse sales, long before Mr Peters began issuing public denials of any such thing. Matamata horse trainer Paul Moroney says he heard Mr Peters express his gratitude at Karaka.

So there it is. For the best part of a 30-year career in politics, Winston Raymond Peters has been parading himself as a unique paragon of virtue in a nest of political corruption. He alone could resist the seductions of big business, he was in nobody's pocket, he was fighting the people's fight against corporate chicanery and foreign control. And thousands believed him.
Perhaps the most telling testimony from Mr Glenn this week came in an interview on TV3 just after his evidence to the privileges committee. He mentioned that in the course of soliciting the donation Mr Peters asked that it be kept confidential. Of course the New Zealand First leader would want it kept confidential that his party relies on money from the same sort of benefactors that help other parties.

But it is one thing to try to keep the truth confidential, it is another to deny it when directly asked. Then it becomes a lie. Mr Glenn was happy to keep his donation confidential but was not prepared to deny it, if asked. As he said to his adviser, "You mean I should deny donating to NZ First, when I did?" He was advised to refer the question to NZ First. By implication, Mr Peters' party was prepared to lie.

So it began, and so it now ends. The silly thing throughout has been that had Mr Peters told the truth at the outset, no harm would have been done. Nobody could have really believed his career survived on his small party's membership fees. Had he admitted, when asked, that he had needed help with a legal bill, who could have blamed him?

But Mr Peters' instinct was never to be candid. He seemed to have a congenital aversion to the straight answer. Invariably he treated questions from the press as a personal affront, to be met with verbal jousts, semantic denials and obfuscation. His "testimony" on Wednesday night confirmed one other peculiarity about this former lawyer - he is remarkably inarticulate. Swallowing words, blurring the point and scrambling sense. This, wilfully or involuntarily, contributes to the fog of evasion. His appearance failed to rebut a single piece of Mr Glenn's evidence.

Enough of him. New Zealanders should consider today what a debt we owe Owen Glenn. He cared enough for his good name in this country to come here and clear it. In doing so he will surely rid us of a politician who misused his considerable talent and charm to mislead the public on important policies, sow fear and suspicion of change and survive on a populism that has turned out to be not only destructive but dishonest.

Mr Glenn deserved the high honour bestowed on him at New Year for financial endowments such as that of the Auckland University business school. Scarred by his brush with New Zealand politics, he might not realise that he has earned his honour doubly now.