Bill Ralston writes in his his column in the Herald today, “Okay, I know sometimes I don’t open all my emails, such as ones headed “PM Unveils New Electorate Office for Steve Maharey”, “Arbitration Amendment Bill Passed By Parliament” and “Free Viagra”. But, then, I’m not running the country.”
He goes on to suggest that Winston’s office really should have been reading the emails from the Combined Threat Assessment Group. Fair enough.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a politician has used the “i never read the email” excuse though. There’s been a lot of discussion here on The Standard in the last few days about the role of the Brethren in 2005. The primary defense from the right seems to be that EB involvement was “just like the unions”. It wasn’t. Among other things, it was covert.
What really set the EB campaign apart in my mind though was the fact that Brash and Key and other senior National figures lied – and I think, continue to lie – about the extent of their knowledge.
Brash’s inital defence was “I didn’t read the email”. This is the same line that Key still falls back on. This was the report in the Press on Nov 30 2005:
An email published in the book, sent to Brash from Rangiora Brethren member Ron Hickmott on May 24, 2005, says the church was planning a $1 million election campaign “with the sole goal of getting party votes for National”, and refers to a meeting the previous week with National’s campaign manager, Steven Joyce.
“I am essentially working on our/your election campaign full- time,” Hickmott wrote.
Brash initially denied he had received it, saying the email was “total fiction”.
He then said it was possible the email was sent to an indirect email address and cleared by party staff without his knowledge.
This position became untenable yesterday, however, when Hager released an email he had held back from publication in his book, saying he wanted to see whether Brash would continue to deny his association with the Brethren.
The latest correspondence shows the Hickmott email went into Brash’s parliamentary email inbox at 3.15pm, where it was cleared by Brash’s chief adviser, Bryan Sinclair, and forwarded to Brash’s personal email account at 4.13pm that day.
Sinclair added the comment: “From the Brethren. I usually avoid tangling you up with this, but this is worth reading as it looks like $$ are involved here.”
Brash replied at 6.49pm: “Thanks Bryan. Yes our friends from the Brethren bailed me up at breakfast this morning. I have forwarded this for reaction from Steven (Joyce, National’s campaign manager). Don.”
Brash was shown to be a liar. This is the man National wanted running our country. Possibly even more astounding is National had audacity to run a campaign that explicitly set out to attack Clark’s integrity – the characteristic they referred to internally as “her biggest strength”.
It’ll come as no surprise that I’m skeptical of Key’s scripted denials that “I don’t believe I ever received that e-mail, and I have no record of receiving it. In my opinion that may indicate it was sent to the wrong address”.