It smacks of entrapment, and a cynical attempt to make a flippant comment sound sinister. Given how weak i is, it may backfire on Labour and their tame propogandists, and serve them right.
The eagerness with which some left blogs have fallen on this story, and the phoney shock and horror envinced on (for example) the Standard that Key and English had obviously talked about how to handle the issue is a bit ... phoney. Both men using the word 'pathetic' to describe the tape is enough to prompt specualtion that the response is co-ordinated by Crosby/Textor - rather a far-fetched conclusion, and evidence that there are plenty on the left who are willing to do whatever it takes to win - precisely what they are accusing National of.
It's a shame to see a professional journalist like Duncan Garner joining in, asking English what he meant (3). From the context of even the fragment we're given, it is obvious he isn't talking about how the National Party are willing to lie and cheat their way into power before turning on us and devouring our children alive before us. It's clearly about a willingness to fight dirty if Labour fight dirty - "despite the highly principled statements" - which is hardly a secret agendum.
Why defend an unlikeable rightwing primitivist (4) like Mr English? Because I dislike lies, misrepresentation and character assasination as much as rightwing primitivism. It's the sort of tactics that are natural to the right - it's disappointing to see the left engaging in them.
Clearly, there are plenty on the left who'll do anything - "despite the highly principled statements" - to win. Which is why I'm sick of them. It isn't about principle any more, just about making sure your team wins.
1 - "More controversial comments caught on tape," reported by Duncan Garner on 3 News, 9th of October, 2008. View it on http://www.3news.co.nz/Video/More-controversial-comments-caught-on-tape/tabid/370/articleID/75161/Default.aspx?ArticleID=75161#video
2 - "In Case You Missed It," posted by all_your_base on The Standard, 10th of October, 2008. (http://www.thestandard.org.nz/in-case-you-missed-it/)
3 - Garner, op. cit.
4 - "Bill English: Political views," Wikipedia profile of Bill English, a viewed on 11th October, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_English#Political_views)