It’s funny the stories you hear when you’re out in the provinces. I was up in Auckland over the long weekend and came across someone who told me the story of how Key became involved in National.
See, Key was never political growing up and certainly not strongly National. He can’t remember where he stood on the Springbok Tour and he says he voted for Mike Moore a couple of times in the 1980s. But it seems that in 1999, Key’s sister met National Party President John Slater, whose eyeballs turned into little cartoon dollar signs when he heard of John’s enormous wealth and interest in adding MP (or even PM) to his CV.
Key was given a meeting with PM Jenny Shipley, who with not so much as a ‘thus, do I ever make my fool my purse’ hatched a plan. Key would be offered a safe National seat in the 2002 election (he returned to NZ permanently just before the 2002 selection process); the troublesome Brian Neeson in Helensville would be pushed to one side, and, in return, Key would make substantial donations to National.
How substantial? Well, substantial enough that it would be a scandal if the public found out. So, National had him channel his donations through a group of anonymous trusts, principally the Waitemata Trust, which National uses to hide the identity of its large donors. In total, it’s said he gave up to $1.5 million between 1999 and 2005. More money may have secured his leadership in 2006 (ironically, National is now sitting on piles of cash it can’t channel through sock-puppets because of the EFA).
All this looks very bad; Key may be the first person to try to literally buy himself the Prime Ministership. The people of New Zealand deserve to know the truth. It’s time for National to open the accounts of the Waitemata Trust and its other secret trusts, and for Key to come clean on how much he donated in return for his seat.
[Update: I’ve since heard lower figures than $1.5 million, but the truth still needs to be told.]