Upbraided – But Not Undone? Will John Key Survive “Tailgate”?



IN AMERICAN JOURNALISM there’s an expression: “The story was too good to check!” And every journalist knows what it means. A story so compelling; so freighted with significance; so certain to sell newspapers (or generate page-views) that you don’t want to go through the usual processes of verification – in case it turns out to be untrue.

You can imagine, then, how Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury felt when he heard the story about the Prime Minister and the pony-tail. A journalist can work in the industry for forty years and stumble onto something like this maybe once or twice – if he or she is lucky.

There’s a temptation to rush such a story into print, or post it immediately on the web, but in the age of Dirty Politics that is the last thing you should do. A story as big as this one could be a VRWC set-up: a complete fabrication designed to entrap the unwary blogger and explode his credibility forever. The watchword in such circumstances is always: caution.

And Bomber was as good as his watchword. He checked and double-checked. He sought advice. He pondered the consequences of getting it wrong. But in the end, he did what all journalists do. Having checked the story, he checked his gut. Did he trust his informant? Did her story ring true? If the answer to both of those questions was “Yes.”, then he had to publish. And publish he did.

No one now can say that Bomber’s trust was misplaced. Barely an hour up on The Daily Blog and the pony-tailed waitress’s story was being read by thousands. Twitter thrummed with comments and questions. Other blogs linked to it. And by mid-day the mainstream news media’s reporters had forced a clearly spooked Prime Minister to get off his plane at LA International Airport and deliver a public admission and apology to the young woman he’d repeatedly pestered in a Parnell café.

Even before his admission and apology, however, John Key’s friends and allies were leaping to his defence. The PM was only being playful, they insisted. It wasn’t at if he’d touched her breasts or backside. Tugging a girl’s pony-tail – what male hasn’t? (Not many, it’s true, but most of them were under twelve years-of-age!) There was nothing sexual in it. For God’s sake – the man’s wife was present! Seriously, who could object to a little friendly fun?

Well, the young woman did – as was her right – and she let him know by shooting him a filthy look. Did he stop? No he didn’t. She tried to avoid him. He crept up behind her. She told her boss, who told the PM. He kept on tugging. Finally, exasperated, the waitress summoned up all her courage (and if you are a young woman, and the man pulling your pony-tail is the Prime Minister, a great deal of courage is required) and told him to his face to cut it out. Even then, the prime-ministerial banter and teasing continued. Finally, someone – his wife Bronagh, one of his security detail, a neighbour who dines at the same café – managed to convince him that his behaviour was unwanted, unacceptable and must cease. He returned to the café, bearing two bottles of his own wine as a peace-offering. Turns out it was too little, too late.

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Will the PM’s prompt admission and apology put this story to bed as swiftly as his spin-doctors are clearly hoping? Probably. By chance, the story broke when the PM was out of the country, en route to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. That sombre event will, in all likelihood banish “tailgate” from the nation’s front-pages.

But, it makes you wonder.

According to Bomber’s informant, the hair-pulling antics of the PM began in September of 2014, during the election campaign. So let me leave you with this little thought experiment. Had the man doing the pony-tail pulling not been John Key, but the Leader of the Opposition, David Cunliffe, and the story had broken before election day (let us say, for the sake of argument, on the Whale Oil blog) how do you think the mainstream news media would have responded? Would David Cunliffe have been permitted to get away with an admission and an apology? Would his political opponents have conceded that he was guilty only of a little playfulness, a little friendly fun?

Of course not! Every honest New Zealander knows that if it had been David Cunliffe who’d repeatedly pulled a waitresses pony-tail, and been found out, then the story could only have ended one way – with his resignation.

What does it say about John Key and his relationship with both the news media and the wider New Zealand electorate that, public admission and apology delivered, he will almost certainly walk away from this scot free?


  1. I watched the PM tonight apologise for his behaviour.
    I wonder if the media will seize upon this as Mr Key apologising for “being a man”.

    Will the main stream media will be as “fair and unbiased” as they were when David Cunliffe apologised?

    TDB featured a picture of the PM at The Edge Radio wearing a Tshirt announcing “I won’t apologise for being a man?” Does he stand by that TShirt, or just stand in it?

    I doubt it.

  2. Your thought experiment needs to be an advert on television, so all the sheep watching it, can actually try to think about your question. It maybe hard for them though.

  3. Fact of the matter is this : technically its assault.

    Unwarranted , non consensual physically touching a person not once , but repeatedly , – that even after the target person had clearly asked, then told the offender it was not acceptable.

    A parallel would be the reason why Key has bodyguards….they are not just there to ‘stop a bullet’ Hinckley style….but also to prevent embarrassment …eg : a rotten egg being thrown – or paint spattered over the PM….

    So we see there are many types of reasons for having assault laws….and not all of them entail permanent physical harm . Often it is as much to protect an individuals dignity.

    The fact this man is the ‘ PM ‘….betrays a trifling attitude towards all this…and indeed…if it were David Cunliffe the media would have been baying for his political hide by now.

    It is time such ‘ fobbing off ‘ and minimizing by this person is taken seriously ….otherwise we descend into the mentality of feudal Europe…whereby the Norman conquerors gave ridiculous names to the Anglo Saxon royalty….an act of demeaning and subjecting those conquered.

    The point being that we live in a supposed ‘equal ‘ society…where one law is in effect over all individuals. The fact the PM clearly knew he was upsetting this person…yet patently continued on after being asked – then told to desist…shows a disrespect for that individuals person-hood and a disrespect for the very laws that are there to protect not just the PM – but the rest of society as well.

  4. Shonkey walk away smirking – don’t think so; his infantile pony tail pulling is out there and will stick like dog defecation to a gumboot.

  5. Well said Chris. Today has been an utterly fascinating day and I hope the good people of Aotearoa have a better understanding of the morality of this Government than they had before.

  6. Well the antispam and math captcha might also keep the usual pro-nat trolls that inhabit cyber space away.

    No doubt this just is another in along line of curious behaviour the PM displays- tune into parliament some time! Some typical displays are on you tube for all to see.

    Having watched many of them and having listened into parliament I have thought for some time that the PM is not quite right in the head-especially as he leads a government[and I use the term loosely].

    But I am sorry this news has overshadowed the other news of selling off Auckland real estate on a Malaysian radio station and comments coming as a result Like: reply to NZ Herald article. Is the Auckland property overvalued?:
    “For my colleague’s father its just about perfect, as his 53 rental properties have just gained him investor plus residency status off the back of their capital value.
    The fact that less than half are actually rented out is not important:

    The time has come for the emperor in no clothes to just go away and leave someone to clean up the mess he will leave.

  7. “a little friendly fun?” Schoolyard bullies, when cornered, will always at some point use the defence, “but we were only having some fun” sometimes accompanied by “weren’t we, (insert victim’s name here)?”
    At the end of the day, John was only having a little fun. Akshully, how mean of all you lefties to try to turn it into something it wasn’t. Get some guts and join the right side.

  8. You know what they say …’Give someone enough ponytail they’ll hang themselves’!
    ‘King of The Dweebs’, David Farrar has already been doing damage control. Bogus Boag will no doubt follow up.
    The comparison with David Cunliffe is a salient one which also sprang to my mind immediately.
    It’s salient because if the ‘Ponytail Puller from Parnell’ is given any less ‘treatment’ than the totally unwarranted, deliberately fabricated , ‘Tricky Campaign’ against David Cunliffe , it will then show how far New Zealand has moved away from being a true democracy…..and that will be real cause for concern!

  9. “What does it say about John Key and his relationship with both the news media and the wider New Zealand electorate that, public admission and apology delivered, he will almost certainly walk away from this scot free? ”

    To get a really good insight of Key’s relationship with the media, listen to Garner on the Radio Live this afternoon. He gushed all afternoon about what a “warm”, “friendly” person Key is, how he calls Garner “big boy” and provides him with his “John Key labelled wine every Christmas”.

    I got the impression that Garner really enjoys the attention that John Key gives him and I have no doubt that it affects his judgement on political issues…in my view this is incredibly unprofessional, but that is the media environment that we have in NZ. I expect that Gower, Hosking et al feel that same level of self importance when John Key provides them with attention. This is why Key is treated differently, we have a number of unprofessional people in our media who are very easy to charm. Where are the Colin James’s coming through in our media?

      • Pedophilia and trichophilia are both mental sexual disorders. Being a pedophile or being a trichophile is not a crime. But acting out the compulsions associated with those disorders is a crime.

        Regardless whether Key is convicted or not, he needs help. In the short term perhaps one or more of John Key’s security staff could have responsibility for keeping John (and those around him) safe …from himself. In the long term perhaps Nigel Latta could step in and offer counselling services?

  10. This has got too big to go away. He has embarrassed again, NZ on the world stage. In The Guardian it is the first and third most read story in the world news.

  11. Beautifully written piece .
    I bet his American Masters’ll be fucked off . They had the perfect quisling . Monied up and all Golf Caddy and everything and he lets his weirdy fetishes and sociopathic power trips get in the way of their agendas .
    Oh well, this is the end of yankee doodle psycho jonky-stiens run .

    Next ! ?

    Or will there be a next ?

    Will there be instead a voice from across the Rubicon ?

    Something like this ; “ Oi , you’s Kiwis ! ? Ya know that land you’re on ? Well, it’s ours now . If you have any questions, ask the drone . “

  12. I think the young lady should be very careful: the bottles of wine may have come (indirectly) from Donghwa Liu – but if they rid us of this treacherous reptilian overlord they’ll be worth a great deal more than $200 000.

  13. One Brit said recently about John Key that he was – “cynical and manipulative and an opportunist with no ethical backbone and an infantile understanding of truth and responsibility. ”

    Others are also warning the NZ public to finally wake up.

    To try and put his abusive acts under the rug and diminish their importance and blame the left, etc. just shows the depths of what being a sociopath is all about. John Key KNEW she did not like her ponytail being pulled so – HE LIES AGAIN STATING THAT HE DID NOT KNOW. GOD WHEN ARE WE GOING TO WAKE UP TO THIS MANS LUNACY AND DENIALS AND GAMES. HE IS A MANIPULATIVE OPPORTUNIST THROUGH AND THROUGH.

  14. Good points made Chris.
    Personally it made me think back to the “rape culture” issue we have in this country. It starts with something as simple as any man thinking he has the right to touch a woman. Roger Sutton found out the hard way that his touchy feely nature was not appreciated by his female work colleagues appreciate he was made to fall on his sword. More than one woman spoke out in the end too.
    I can’t help but think this #ponytailgate incident is not isolated. We’ve all seen on the news tonight the replaying of John Key pulling appreciate little girl’s hair appreciate the Mata kana Markets on a walk about with John Campbell. I remember at the time thinking and saying that was an inappropriate gesture by the PM. Other photos are also emerging.
    Not one female MP or member of the PM’s office has yet to stand to John Key’s defence. The silence of Louise Upston, Minister of Women, is telling. Will Jackie Blue have something to say tomorrow in her role?
    This incident also brought back to me those few paragraphs in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book where David Farrar is quoted to have said he’d organise some “dirty Young Nats girls to be drunk” for some party attended by party members. It goes back to my initial comments about how some men think they can touch any woman they want, to create power over someone they really have no business with.

  15. Breaking news! John Key today admits that he was indeed aware of potential trouble regarding the actions of National’s Mike Sabin several months ahead of the 2014 election. However, Key was quick to point out that Sabin was just “horsing around” and that it was all “just a bit of harmless fun.” New Zealanders, in his opinion, were “at the end of the day, much more interested in the flag referendum.”

    • Hi Richard – have we got a link to Key’s statement you refer to please?

      This new remark by Key is more damaging than anything else.

      As it clearly shows he is not getting to grips with his serious deception and understanding of what is proper behaviour befitting of his administration and example to citizenry of NZ.

      • My question is. If he abused his position with this young woman, has he abused his position with respect to the GCSB and SIS?

  16. I suggest Campbell Live provide the young woman a platform to repeat this narrative to its viewers, as there is no daily print alternative in the upper North Island to the NZ Herald’s disgraceful agenda .

    I kind of like the poetic justice of the idea in light of the attempts made to shut down Campbell.

  17. Under both the Summary Offences Act 1981 and the Crimes Act 1961 what Key did was common assault. He committed a crime, and repeated it. If an ordinary Joe Blow had done it and the waitress had laid a complaint with the police they would have had him in court and he would have been convicted. She should do that to Key, then we shall see whether the police and the courts do their statutory duty.

  18. Key is a buffoon.

    The question that strikes me. If Key is arrogant enough to abuse his position with this young woman over a period of 7 months, how does he view his position as being in charge of the GCSB and SIS? Has he abused his position of power there?

  19. A case of “The Man Who Would Be King” meets Roger Sutton.
    As has been observed, would it have happened with any man, an older woman or dare I say it, a plain woman?
    Is innocent, fun-loving, flirtatious inappropriate touching not a sexual assault just because the perp is a high profile, powerful and popular buffoon?
    Or just because his long suffering wife had to witness it and failed to stop him?
    Perhaps Mr Key can’t exactly recall why he started touching this young woman.
    Perhaps he needs a short sharp reminder.

    • Mr Key probably cannot exactly recall why he started touching this young woman (or the other minimum of three other times he has been caught out touching and pulling hair)

      He first needs to recognise that he is a trichophile, just as a child molester has to recognise that he is a pedophile. In his own head he could very well be living with the fantasy of the self serving excuse that his victims “like” what he inflicts on them, as much as he gets illicit pleasure from the activity.

      His behaviour is extremely similar to that of another Political Party Leader, Graham Capill. A person who makes very strong pronouncements against the very thing that they are personally fighting demons. Capill spoke out against abuse before he was caught. John Key spoke out against transgressions by MPs he has fired, referring to the high standards he expects, while probably being aware of his own demons. Very very little difference, except that Capill’s crimes were more serious.

      John Key is finished politically, in the same way that Len Brown has been simply putting one step in front of the other since his affair was exposed. It’s a tough conclusion, but one with an inevitability about it caused by John Key’s own demands for high standards of behaviour. How can he stay, when he fires his troops for similar behaviour?

    • “Would have it happened with a plain woman?” Oh yes! You don’t have to be good-looking – just female. (Speaking from experience.)

  20. I was talking to a work colleague this morning. He was railing about this subject but not, you might suppose about the PM’s behaviour. No, he was railing about why this stupid woman had to make such a mountain out of a molehill. Key shouldn’t have done it, he admitted, but after all it was so minor and she shouldn’t have made such a big thing out of it, he declared.
    He was more angry about the woman speaking up about it than the PM actually doing it.
    Although this man is not a nasty person or a person who would normally sanction bad behaviour, it shows a fundamental problem in New Zealand society that some people think the real crime is speaking up about it. Why should people get so upset with a bit of horsing around? Perhaps they believe the old excuse: “Methinks the lady doth protest too much….” which is another way of saying she says no when she means yes.

  21. Now watch the flag issue rolled out once more, when Key returns from Gallipoli, to deflect from his depraved behaviour.

    Parliament should be extremely interesting next Tuesday when it resumes!

    Fairfax’s Stuff reports Louise Upston is standing by Key. And she is the Minister for Women! What a disgraceful representative for her gender!

    As much as I dislike Judith Collins, at least she spoke out against Key’s behaviour. But then I guess if this issue really blows up in Key’s face and he is held account for his repeated actions of pulling the waitress’s pony tail over a fairly long period of time, Collins will put herself in the running for his job along with Steven Joyce!

    Incidentally, Joyce has been silent on this issue! Biding his time perhaps? Distancing himself from Key, preparing for what’s coming maybe?

    • I was just wondering why it’s been quiet in certain quarters. Maybe potential successors are waiting to see whether this is the time to move.

    • Yes….there are two reasons why Joyce will remain quiet.

      1) His appalling handling of the Northland by election affair. The dream was shattered.

      2) If in fact….in the months to come…Key – if not dethroned by this and other scandal’s – is forced to walk the plank…then Joyce , Bennet and Collins will be positioning themselves for the leader role.

      Even if it is as an interim leader . The justification will be to preserve the National party machine intact.

  22. the PMs apology is admission of Guilt.

    Now the spotlight has been shed on PM John Key other deviant behavior, fondling young girls hair & drooling over them asking if they “had their hair pulled by boys”.
    This needs to be examined in context of a potential serial child offender.
    & the parents of those children PM Key fondled need to take action also.
    Their is also a sickening association with our PM with other world leaders in power accused of indecent activity Bill Clinton ,Prince Andrew, convicted pedophile Jeffery Epstein
    billionaires club

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