Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin

Just because Aaron Gilmore said things happened in a particular way doesn't mean we shouldn't believe him when he now says those things happened in a different way. Right?

While Aaron Gilmore's actions at a Hanmer Springs hotel and the resultant fallout are, at best, mildly diverting, it is worth noting for posterity that he appears to have a somewhat shifting recollection of the events in question.

This is what he is quoted by the NZ Herald as saying about the relevant evening at his "tearful" apology press conference this morning:

[Gilmore] said he had made a written apology to the hotel, where he was accused of calling a waiter a "dickhead".

"If there was a dickhead that night it was me."


He said that as an MP he had a good grasp of liquor laws and believed the waiter was not right to refuse him alcohol because he was not drunk.

Mr Gilmore said he had only consumed three glasses of wine and two beers at the restaurant.


He said that the waiter did not know who he was. Mr Gilmore presented a business card and the waiter asked if he knew the Prime Minister, he said.

You may then care to compare this current account of both how he behaved and the extent of his alcohol consumption that night with the account he gave to TVNZ when the story first broke (I've taken the liberty of highlighting apparently inconsistent passages).

Gilmore said the group of five shared four bottles of wine over several hours, and he had had one beer before dinner.

While he "wasn't going to drive anywhere", he was not intoxicated when ordering more wine, he said.

He could not be sure if he or another member of his party told the waiter to "stop being a dickhead" while discussing liquor-licensing laws.

"I don't know if that was said by me or another colleague. I'm pretty sure it wasn't me."

He later said, "It may well have been me."

However, he later retracted the comment.

Gilmore also said: "I can't be 100% sure of everything I say after having a bottle and a half of wine, but I think someone has misinterpreted what was said."

Gilmore said he handed the barman his business card, so they could talk the next day if there were any more issues.

The comments at the restaurant must have been "a bit misconstrued", he said.

Gilmore said he thanked hotel staff the next day, and told them the call to refuse to sell his group more alcohol was "fair enough".

It is always possible that Gilmore's memory as to what unfolded that night has clarified in the days between his initial account and this latest, "official" one. But it is also possible for us to conclude he's still telling us a bunch of porkie pies. Which is the risk he runs by changing his story in this way.

As I say, in the end this doesn't really matter very much. John Key thinks ditching Gilmore carries greater political risks than keeping him in his caucus. And in the absence of any other evidence emerging about these events, that calculus won't change. And let's face it ... while Gilmore's actions reveal him to be a "dickhead" who is a "strong-willed person and personality" (nice euphamism, that), these are hardly disqualifications for public office.

I mean - what do you think Winston Churchill would have said to a waiter who refused to serve him another whiskey? And isn't Aaron Gilmore greater than Churchill ever was?