22 Apr 2015

Harassment or harmless?

8:46 pm on 22 April 2015

There are many extraordinary things about the story of the Prime Minister repeatedly pulling the ponytail of a waitress at his local cafe.

The most extraordinary is that John Key felt he could do it at all.

People will have different views of how serious it is but it certainly amounts to harassment. The Prime Minister should have known better.

It is also an abuse of power. It is hard to believe any ordinary customer could have walked into the cafe and repeatedly pulled the waitress's ponytail without someone - the cafe manager for example - intervening.

But Mr Key is the Prime Minister and he always has with him bulky police officers from the Diplomatic Protection Squad.

It is easy to see why the waitress would have been intimidated.

It also raises questions about why the DPS officers did not have a quiet word in Mr Key's ear and tell him to keep his hands to himself.

According to the waitress' blog Mr Key's wife Bronagh did exactly that. Even then the Prime Minister ignored the advice and continued to harass the waitress.

Another extraordinary element of this saga is how Mr Key's office responded to the blog.

The office released a statement quickly in which it said it was a cafe Mr Key visited regularly with his wife.

"His actions were intended to be light hearted. It was never his intention to make her feel uncomfortable and he has apologised to her."

So the office does not challenge the waitress' version of events but it does attempt to downplay its seriousness by saying his actions were intended to be light-hearted.

Will this be politically damaging for the Prime Minister?

Certainly it will confirm in the minds of those who oppose or dislike him that he is not the man they want as Prime Minister.

But what of his supporters, of whom there are many. Will this, in anyway dent, his popularity among them?

That will depend on whether they view his actions as light-hearted or, as the waitress believes, something slightly more sinister.

Follow Brent Edwards on Twitter @rnzgallerybrent