Prime Minister Bill English has revealed that Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay offered to play him the tape of his electorate agent’s conversations last year.
English says he didn’t take up the offer.
English made the admissions at a press conference in Wellington following his speech to the National Party conference on Sunday.
The speech made no reference to the major developments in the case last week.
Barclay announced his resignation last week after again publicly denying on Tuesday morning any recording.
That’s in stark contrast to the police statement English released on Tuesday afternoon saying Barclay told him he had left his dictaphone running on the agent.
Sources sympathetic to Barclay have been privately suggesting alternative theories to the commonly assumed one that Barclay recorded his agent to get proof that she had been bad-mouthing him.
One of the theories is that Mr Barclay only pretended to have recording of her.
In itself that would be sensational were it true, given that she was paid an extra large payout from John Key’s leader’s fund as settlement for her privacy having been breached through the recording.
But English’s admission that Barclay actually offered to play him the recording would tend to scotch the likelihood of the alternative theory being true.
Asked by a reporter Newsroom if Barclay had offered to play English the recording, English said: “Did he offer to play me the recording? Ah, yes he did.”
English also thinks Barclay should cooperate with the police if it reopens the investigation, something he refused to do last year.
“It would be my view he should cooperate,” English says. “I respect his legal rights to make his own decisions about how he is represented and what action he takes.”
Asked if he gave Barclay the same advice at the time of the police inquiry last year into the recording, he said: “Yes, I told him it was my view.”
English cooperated with the police and gave an interview.
But the matter of the MP offering to play him the recording was not raised or volunteered in the interview.
Asked why he didn’t take up Barclay on the offer to listen to the recording, English said: “I just didn’t think it was appropriate. There was an employment dispute going on for which I was not a party.
“In the context of employment disputes or police investigations, you don’t want to make them worse with lose comments that could make them harder to resolve.”
Later in the press conference, English refused to say whether he had advised Barclay to wipe the recording. The third time he was asked the question, he denied having done so.