Patrick Gower: English should have slapped down O'Connor

OPINION: If you want evidence that National is losing its grip, look no further than Bill English's failure to slap down Simon O'Connor.

Bill English should have come out in the media today and criticised O'Connor's ill-advised Facebook rant.

His failure to do so shows National's killer instinct is gone - Bill English and his advisors were asleep on this one. 

Back in the heyday of John Key, the communicator-in-chief would have shown his disappointment at O'Connor. The leader's disappointment would have been the headline - it would have stolen the momentum.

But instead - nothing.

English stands by while the MP for Tamaki that nobody has really heard of outside of Mission Bay refuses to back away from his comments. The comments were a cocktail of stupidity, mixing the hot-button issue like suicide, an attack on Ardern and euthanasia all together.

And worse for English, they distract from his key attack line on tax and Ardern's stardust.  

English should have stood up and said: "Simon O'Connor is wrong. He's entitled to his views on euthanasia like we all are, but this was the wrong way to express them. I don't have time to talk to him, but I've got one of my staff to pass on my disappointment."

O'Connor could then have fronted and "walked it back" - he could have issued a statement even after stuffing up during today's interview with Lisa Owen. 

English would have looked strong and saved a bad story.

But he didn't - and there are just 12 days to go.  Bill English missed a chance - he can't afford too many more.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.