ACC denies leaking Bronwyn Pullar’s name. It’s not credible that they would act so high risk and so politically. Boag and Pullar clearly didn’t leak it. So, that leaves Collins and her office. Collins denied leaking the email to the media … but leaves a fair bit of wiggle room, doesn’t it? The tipline is, as they say, running hot – and the name on everyone’s lips is Lusk.
To understand why Collins would give Pullar’s name to Simon Lusk for passing on to the Herald, you need to understand some internal National Party dynamics.
The next National leader will be chosen this term or immediately after the next election. So the jockeying is starting now.
There are several groups of National MPs and money-men that will play a part in the post-Key leadership contest. Among them are Joyce and his allies, Boag and her people (she got Key into Parliament and many junior Nats owe their jobs to her for that), there’s the still powerful brat pack, and Collins’ team.
Collins has built up a little cadre of junior Nat MPs thanks to the efforts of Simon Lusk who runs campaigns (several new National MPs thanked him in their maiden speeches) and, with the help of Cameron Slater, also fixes nomination races by running smear campaigns against rivals of Collins’ proteges. Slater, or more likely it was Lusk ghost-writing, laid this strategy out in the open last year – $10,000 will buy you Lusk/Slater spin on your National Party nomination race. And you saw their handy work in Botany and Rodney, amongst other races. Lusk/Slater/Collins’ tactics are disliked by many in the party, particularly Boag’s faction. So, an opportunity to hurt Boag was always going to appeal to Collins.
The word is that Boag sent the now famous email to Collins with the understanding that it would be kept confidential and not passed to ACC. Sources say that, seeing her chance, Collins not only gave the email to ACC but to Lusk. Slater, or Lusk ghostwriting, almost immediately jumped into the then nascent ACC leak calling for prosecutions although Pullar’s name was not yet in the public arena. Lusk gave the Boag email to Fisher at the Herald, and that’s how Pullar’s name and Boag’s role as her support person became public (you’ll remember in that first article Boag seemed particularly incensed that the email had gotten out – now you know why). Fran O’Sullivan, who also strongly backed Lusk’s Brash coup of ACT, jumped on board with an unusually personal attack on Boag – count her in Collins’ camp too.
Now, we’re told that Collins didn’t mean for the leak to end in Nick Smith’s resignation. Her target was Boag. Smith’s resignation was just gravy. No sooner had he fallen on his sword than Slater/Lusk was promoting Collins’ acolytes Upston and Lotu-Iiga as replacements.
Unfortunately for Collins, Slater has a tendency to turn everything he touches to shit, and his contributions to this affair are one reason why our tip-line has been overflowing with details of how Collins attempted to screw over Boag with the email about Pullar and accidentally took out Smith as well.
The knives are sharpening for Collins over this. She’s a known backstabber but, in taking out the well-liked and experienced Smith as collateral damage in her jockeying for the leadership post-Key she has gone too far. The brat pack is out to get her along the Joyce and Boag factions. Even Nats who don’t know, until now, exactly how Collins leaked and to whom will tell you the obvious – the leak can only have come from her office.
The question now is whether Key acts, or looks weak.