Heat on Barclay to quit and front up
Prime Minister Bill English says he’s expecting MP Todd Barclay back in Parliament this week.
The temperature has been turned up on the National Party’s MP at the weekend, with mayors in his Clutha-Southland electorate saying he should either show up to work or quit – and he should front up to a police inquiry.
Despite claims from Barclay and senior Government whip Jami-Lee Ross that Barclay had been hard at work, the only time he’s been seen in public since announcing his resignation was when he was spotted at the Pig and Whistle pub in Queenstown on July 3.
Police want to talk to him about allegations he secretly recorded the phone conversations of his electorate staff member Glenys Dickson, in an ugly falling out.
According to a Stuff source, phone records show Dickson was in constant contact with English as she prepared an employment grievance against Barclay.
The two are said to have communicated by phone or text message up to 10 times a day as relations with Barclay deteriorated.
Dickson received a settlement paid in part from then Prime Minister John Key’s leader’s budget, on condition she stayed silent. But after English revealed last month that he had been told of the covert recordings, Barclay announced he would step aside as an MP at September’s general election.
From the day he flew out of Wellington through to election day, September 23, he will run up an estimated $90,431 in salary and allowances, including three months’ gardening leave for retiring MPs.
In addition, he will continue to charge his flights, taxis and accommodation back to the taxpayer.
Reporters on the ground have documented Barclay’s electorate work since June 21. He has not returned to Parliament, he did not turn up to the National Party conference, he has not turned up to any of his scheduled public events in Southland, he has not been sighted at any of his three offices in the large electorate, he has cancelled his local newspaper columns, and he has spoken publicly only three times – each time through a spokeswoman or by text message.
The third occasion was to Stuff for this article.
‘‘I remain the MP until the 2017 election and, until then, I’m committed and passionate about being actively engaged in issues, looking out for the people of CluthaSouthland’s interests and advocating on their behalf,’’ he said.
‘‘As for whether I return to Wellington or not, I still haven’t made a decision. Bearing in mind there are a number of other MPs every day who have leave from Parliament, some for extended periods, for a wide range of reasons. So it is not unusual.’’
But the excuses rang hollow in his electorate. Aileen Clarke, who owns the Catlins Cafe in Owaka, said resentment was building in their community, and that taxpayers shouldn’t be paying Barclay’s salary when he didn’t seem to be doing anything.
Barclay hadn’t visited the town since the day before the scandal broke.
‘‘I think the best thing to do under the circumstances would be to resign and stop getting the money.’’
Clutha District mayor Bryan Cadogan said Barclay should do the ‘‘honourable thing’’ and make a statement to the police.
Southland mayor Gary Tong said he had not seen Barclay at any events recently, and would like to talk to Barclay face to face about whether he should resign or return to Parliament.
‘‘I’ve got to be honest and say I don’t know what he’s up to out in the community.’’
Barclay’s only defender was Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult, who said he had spoken to Barclay ‘‘a couple of times’’ since the MP announced his resignation on June 21.
The Prime Minister returned home to Invercargill last week. Again, there was no sign of Barclay.
Despite Barclay and Ross’s insistence no decision had been made about a return to Parliament, English was firm about his expectations.
Asked whether he expected Barclay to return to Parliament after the school holidays recess, English said yes. ‘‘I assume he will turn up at some stage.’’
He had advised Barclay to cooperate with the police investigation, he reiterated.
The MP was committed to continue working for his constituents, English said. ‘‘But, as I said, as we get closer to the election the focus will pretty quickly shift to the new candidate once they’re selected.’’
Mark Patterson, a disillusioned former National Party electorate committee member who is now running for NZ First, said ‘‘Todd should stand down immediately as he has no credibility to carry on.’’