Prime Minister John Key is facing questions this morning over the appointment of his childhood friend and two foot stuffed teddy bear Teddums to the directorship of the Government Communication Security Bureau, New Zealand’s state intelligence agency.
Teddums, who has served as the director of the GCSB for more than a year, was appointed in 2011 as the result of a hiring process undertaken by the State Services Commission. But Labour is alleging that the process was tainted by the Prime Minister, who they say put pressure on the commission to hire Teddums above other candidates.
“He absolutely had a hand in this process” said Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson. “If you take even a cursory glance at their history, you can see that the Prime Minister has known that bear for a very long time. He clearly wanted Teddums in his inner circle, he pulled the strings to get him there, and he’s been understating and diminishing that relationship for more than a week now.”
In Parliament last week, Key asserted that he had no involvement in the hiring process, and that he knew Teddums “only vaguely.” But since then it has come to light that Key had a much closer relationship with the stuffed teddy bear, who reportedly grew up with Key in his family home in Christchurch.
Key has also admitted that he phoned Teddums in 2011 to encourage him to apply for the directorship of the GCSB.
“Yeah, look, this was a guy I knew from, well, it was a long time ago” said Key to a group of reporters yesterday. “There was a phone call. Yup. I don’t deny that. To be honest with you, I’d forgotten it at the time, but I don’t think it makes any difference.”
State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said yesterday that he was “surprised” to learn that Key had phoned Teddums, in large part because he was unaware that the GCSB director could use a phone. But he also said that he felt the whole situation had been “overblown” and assured media that his commission had handled the process appropriately.
“There was absolutely no pressure from the Prime Minister’s office concerning this appointment” said Rennie. “The process was handled completely independently and properly by state services. Teddums is the director of the GCSB not because of any personal relationship he had with the Prime Minister, but because he was the best inanimate object or animal for the job.”
Grant Robertson acknowledged that Teddums was fully qualified for the directorship, but noted that there were many other qualified candidates – such as a tiny microphone and a lobster named Gary – who were not even given an interview.
“This isn’t a question of whether or not Teddums has performed well as the director of the GCSB” said Robertson. “I think we can essentially agree with the Prime Minister when he says that Teddums has done a good job. But this is matter of process. The question is ‘did John Key pressure state services to hire Teddums or did he not?’ and I think it’s fairly clear at this point that he did.”
Sources close to the Labour Party are reporting this morning that they have good reason to believe the relationship between the Prime Minister and his teddy bear was much closer than is currently thought, and insinuated that there may even be evidence to suggest that John Key and Teddums once slept together.