Patrick Gower: Latest Barclay dodging dents 'Brand Bill'

OPINION: Today was meant to be all about "Brand Bill", and things at the National conference started off pretty well for Bill English.

There was a big conference speech with the theme of "delivering" and a new campaign song and video with theme "together".

But then came the Todd Barclay questions and Bill English failed to deliver - he couldn't keep it together.

Out came yet another one of his huge admissions.

Asked if Todd Barclay offered to play him the recording, Bill English thought for a bit and said: "Did he offer to play me the recording? Ahhhh - yes he did."

This is significant because it is yet another failure by the Prime Minister to get his story straight.

Just 24 hours earlier he had come up with a new line that the recording might not actually exist, telling The Nation: "The fact of the recording has never actually been established."

By admitting that Barclay offered to play the recording to him, the Prime Minister obviously undermining his own story that the recording might not exist.

Barclay secretly recorded his electorate secretary Glenys Dickson to try and get something on her during an employment dispute.

So Bill English is claiming the recording might not have happened despite:

  • Making a police statement that Barclay told him of recording.
  • Sending a text that says the recording happened.
  • Glenys Dickson getting a taxpayer-funded pay-out for privacy breach.
  • Todd Barclay quitting Parliament because of it.
  • And now the admission that Barclay offered to play him the recording.

This is hurting National and Bill English in at least one measurable way - it distracts and overshadows the key messages it was trying to get out from the conference: tax cuts, and its positive take on immigration.

Most importantly, it distracts from the building up of English's brand.

Today was meant to be "all about Bill" - in a good way.  

National has a slick political machine and it was in full gear today. It was nearly home and hosed until halfway through the post-speech press conference.

Then Bill English's dodging around once again put a dent in Brand Bill.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.