I’m Happy To Help

John Key is a lucky politician. Just when it seems nothing is going right for him, along comes a media storm involving an Opposition MP.

Key has had a bad start to the year. Winston Peters has been making life for National difficult in the debating chamber, National’s unpopular asset sales programme continues to dominate the news, and on top of that Key had to yesterday endure the embarrassment of the Crafar Farms decision being overturned.

The Radio Live debacle also won’t go away. The PM is now claiming that to the best of his knowledge he knew nothing about emails from his office to Radio Live, when in fact not only did Key choose the guests, but his office also provided the wording Radio Live were to use to request advice from the Electoral Commission about the show.

On top of that Foreign Minister Murray McCully has had his email account hacked. Lest we forget, Mr McCully is one of National’s most senior strategists and a master of the “dark arts”. I imagine his email correspondences would make a good read.

And the Speaker’s handling of Green MP Mojo Mather’s request for funding to enable her to participate in Parliament has made him look petty and mean.

It is no wonder John Key’s cheerful smile has disappeared.

Thankfully, it is always darkest before the dawn. Judy O’Callaghan of Farfax explains:

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has been accused of scalping tickets to a Wellington music festival.

The tickets to Saturday’s sold-out Homegrown festival have a face value of $95 each.

Whitireia music student Laura Signal, 19, and her three friends were desperate to attend so they bid for four tickets on Trade Me, paying a final price of $656.

Miss Signal was surprised when the trader turned out to be the Hutt South MP, who used his parliamentary email address for the auction.

She and her friends went to Mr Mallard’s Naenae office to collect the tickets from him in person.

“He came out and gave us the package really quickly and he kept saying: ‘It’s not what it looks like; it’s not what it looks like,’ to random passers-by.”

The students said they asked Mr Mallard about a “buy now” price during the auction, but he replied that he would let the auction run.

In November 2006, Mr Mallard initiated legislation – now the Major Events Management Act 2007 – to protect event sponsors from people making money out of major events with which they had no formal association.

He said at the time: “When there is bulk-buying of tickets to such events simply for the purpose of profiteering, scalping is a ripoff that could deny many people the opportunity to see an event.”

If you were going to come up with the dream media storm this would be it. A politician being caught out and a Trade Me story, combined into one. It doesn’t matter that Mallard’s only doing what tens of thousands of other people have been doing since the day Trade Me was launched, that he says he always intended to go to the event, and that selling the tickets wasn’t illegal. Instead of focusing on National, Labour must now go into damage control and defend Mallard’s behaviour.

We have become accustomed to these sorts of Opposition own-goals. They always seem to happen at the worst possible time for Labour, just as pressure is beginning to mount on the government. They frequently involve the same people.

It doesn’t matter that in the end there really is nothing in the story. Most people form their impressions about politicians and their parties not by what goes on in the debating chamber or what various self-important bloggers write, but by what they see on the front page of the paper or hear on the radio.

If help is needed to draft a private member’s bill to ban Trevor Mallard from the internet, I’m happy to volunteer my services.