Heat on Bar­clay to quit and front up

The Southland Times - - NEWS -

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.’’

Todd Bar­clay

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