It is a toss-up as to whose behaviour was more contemptible. Chris Carter’s, for doing his damndest to duck making an apology for his spending shenanigans, or the media larrikins for the way they pursued him through the corridors of Parliament.
The journalists’ unseemly pursuit of the hapless Carter, as Alf observed it on the telly last night, was rather like a sharks’ feeding frenzy.
Their behaviour was ugly.
Dammit, they were so intent on further breaking an obviously bewildered and shattered man that the effect was to have Alf feeling sorry for the bugger. Well, almost.
But Carter had committed the cardinal sin of refusing to take questions from them. They get huffy about that sort of thing.
He could learn a thing or two from Shane Jones, who has fronted the media consistently since the recent exposure of his inclination to watch pornographic movies in hotels, charge the taxpayer, then later repay.
If we can take the media’s hounding of Carter out of considerations, the fact remains that it took him much too long to unreservedly apologise to the New Zealand public.
Again, he should he have learned from Jones how to handle a situation like this. Jones has taken it smack bang on the chin and made no excuses.
According to the Herald, Goff had wanted Carter to acknowledge the “public perception of using travel too often, spending too much and taking your partner too often.”
But the apology didn’t come until he had been ordered home to chill out and have a hard think about his future, and it was delivered just in time, it seems, because the Herald says it “pulled him from the brink of a political precipice…”
In a dramatic turn of events, Mr Goff ordered the Te Atatu MP off work shortly before the House resumed at 2pm, angry over Mr Carter’s failure to express contrition over high travel and credit card costs as a minister.
You can read the Herald’s and umpteen other accounts of how Carter emerged from yesterday’s caucus meeting and made a statement about his regret at losing foreign affairs, welcoming the duties of his new portfolio.
And about how Goff told reporters he had ordered Carter home to “think about his future” and said his decision to give him the conservation portfolio in a caucus reshuffle was in doubt.
He gave Mr Carter an ultimatum to respond appropriately within 24 hours.
An hour later a written apology was issued by Mr Carter and delivered to the press gallery offices by Mr Goff’s press secretary.
Yep. There’s a strong whiff of this being a self-serving apology.
But for the record, Carter said:
“It is quite clear to me that a public apology is both demanded and required in regard to my expenses when travelling overseas on government business on the taxpayer expense.
“I unreservedly apologise to the New Zealand public. This has been a very difficult time for me and it has been difficult to choose the right words to be said when under intense pressure from journalists.
“I acknowledge that my temperament when under pressure can make me appear as if I am not contrite or embarrassed. I assure the New Zealand public, I am.”
Goff accepted the apology but said Carter was “on notice”.
It’s a case of expecting the petulant MP to shape up or ship out.
Alf would urge him to ship out because Carter clearly doesn’t have the stomach for a crisis.
Moreover, Alf would like to give his advice with a bouquet – saying it with flowers, in other words.
Of course, he would take great care to ensure that he paid for the flowers personally and did not charge them to a publicly funded account of any sort.
Actually, he discussed this with his florist: what flowers would say “bugger off, Chris”?
The florist consulted his book on floral communication but could not find the answer.
Alf is thinking simply of sending a card.