Gilmore denies threatening to get barman sacked
At a press conference at Parliament this morning, a tearful Aaron Gilmore admitted he was a "bully" and a "dickhead" but denies the central accusation of a fellow diner.
At a Hamner Springs restaurant during a National Party regional conference, the Christchurch-based list MP was said to have threatened to have the Prime Minister's office sack a barman if he was not served another drink.
He denied the allegation when questioned by John Key's chief-of-staff - leading to accusations he was also a liar.
This morning, Mr Gilmore said the sequence of events was that he paid for his dinner, then tried to buy a bottle of wine to take away.
He did not say "Do you know who I am?"
Rather, Mr Gilmore says he supplied the barman with one of his business cards so he could be sure he was a person familiar with liquor laws.
The barman asked him if he knew Prime Minister John Key, and Mr Gilmore replied he did.
Mr Gilmore's account conflicts with that of Christchurch corporate lawyer Andrew Riches.
Asked whether Mr Riches had lied, Mr Gilmore replied, "The words that Mr Riches used were not the words that I used."
He did concede the exchange with the waiter included him "apparently" calling the Hamner Springs staffer a "dickhead."
Beyond denying the central accusation against him, Mr Gilmore was all contrition, serving up emotional one-liners to the press pack including, ''I was a bully, yes...and I make no excuses for that" and "If there was a dickhead that night, it was me." He had a tendency to become arrogant, which he would try to rein in.
The Christchurch list MP also has to front to Naitonal's caucus this morning.
Mr Gilmore said he now wanted to "work his guts out" to prove he could make a contribution.
He may face an uphill battle to convice collegues. The list MP, who entered Parliament at the 2008 election, was demoted from number 56 to number 59 going into the 2011 election. He missed the polling day cut-off, but came back into the house as first-drop after Speaker Lockwood Smith resigned.
Another complication: Mr Riches has today stood by his story.
As with New Zealand First's Brendan Horan controversy, the affair has shone a harsh spotlight on the fact a misbehaving MP can be expelled from a party but not from Parliament - giving few real options for a Prime Minister, like John Key, sitting on a one-seat majority. Some willl wonder why Mr Key did not push hard for MMP reform during the recent review.