Once again, New Zealand's government is racked by scandal. And once again, I can't help but feel there's something missing.
Richard Worth, interior minister, resigned this morning. He is also being investigated by the police, although it's not entirely clear that the two events are connected. But the strangest thing is the Prime Minister's position. Says John Key: "If he hadn't resigned, I would have sacked him. [...] His conduct does not befit a minister. I will not have him in my Cabinet. I have lost confidence in him as a minister."
Strong stuff. As far as I can make out, Worth is Mostly Harmless. Key has previously defended him from accusations and insinuations ranging from abusing his position to promote a company in which he had an interest, to visiting a crime victim when he was acquainted with their attacker, to "acting inappropriately" towards women, a charge so vague it's meaningless.
But now he's being investigated by the police, and the PM has hurled him overboard, and is now paddling as fast as he can to put clear blue water between them.
So what's Worth done to deserve this treatment?
Nobody's saying. The police won't say, which is right and proper. Worth says it's "for personal reasons", which implies that he's quite confident of his ability to do his job from jail if necessary, but thinks it might cut into his family time. Key says "He advised me of some private matters in respect of which he felt it appropriate that he should resign as a minister" - but he won't say what those "private matters" are.
Which is just plain stupid.
When the worst dirt you could previously dig up on the man was that he once visited a stranger in hospital, but now, out of a clear blue sky, he's committed an offence so heinous that you're prepared to hurl him into the ravine and set fire to the rope - really, it behoves you to tell us what that offence was.
Addendum: Some facts have leaked out now. "Leaked" being the operative word - Worth himself, and the PM, are still doing their speak-no-evil act. But apparently it involves an Auckland-based businesswoman and "offers of political positions [on boards] with the underlying sense that Dr Worth was interested in the woman, shall I say, romantically."
That quote comes from the leader of the opposition, so it's far from authoritative... but if the government won't make its own announcements, we have to go by what we do get.