Aaron Gilmore has promised ‘utu’, or reciprocation, against a select band of National insiders including Cameron Slater and Andrew Riches. But what does Slater have to do with Riches? The link is National’s dirty campaigner, Simon Lusk, who regularly works with Slater. The word is that Aaron Gilmore was part of Lusk’s stable of candidates in 2008 and 2011. But Gilmore earned his wrath after refusing to pay a fee for the unsuccessful 2011 campaign.
Meanwhile, Riches has apparently become a Lusk/Slater acolyte, and is being lined up himself as a National candidate next year.
With that context, the motives behind the events that we’ve seen become a little more clear.
For instance, its always been odd that Riches’ letter of apology to the waiter (based on a description of events that still differs significantly from Gilmore’s) became public. It’s clear that the bar and the waiter weren’t behind the publication – they refused all publicity and no copy of the apology has emerged. Riches, on the other hand, was quick into the media playing the principled man. Its said that Riches didn’t publicise the existence of the apology. If he didn’t leak the existence of the letter, did it come from Lusk’s camp?
And what was up with the way that Gilmore was given enough rope to hang himself? That was a professional job. It was only after Gilmore had given an account to Key that his texts to Riches, which apparently contradict that account, came out. Key was then forced into a position where he had to get Gilmore out. And Slater pounced on that immediately. It was Slater who first called for Gilmore to resign.
Why did Riches do that? Why did he release the texts and why did he wait until the perfect moment from the point of view of Gilmore’s internal enemies? This wasn’t the behaviour of a well-intentioned amateur – it was someone who knew exactly what they were doing, and it was an integrated part of a larger campaign.
Following that, the dirt started coming, but how much of it came from the 9th floor and how much from Slater/Lusk? Certainly, it was Joyce who approved the quick release of the OIA from Gilmore’s time at MBIE. But it was Slater who darkly warned that personal information detrimental to Gilmore’s relationship would come out if he didn’t resign.
It was notable that Lusk delivered the coup de grace and finally got Gilmore to resign. What did he say to him to make him change his mind? Its clear that Key isn’t pleased with Lusk’s involvement in the affair – he rated Lusk -1 out of 10 as an influence within the party.
The next round of this is set to be the emergence of Riches as a National Party candidate in Christchurch next year.
Now, this picture is based on info we’ve received. It can’t be independently verified – that’s the nature of these things. It’ll be interesting to see what emerges from Gilmore’s speech this afternoon.
Maybe John Key can shed some further light. Other sources tell us that a senior advisor in his office was drinking with Gilmore that night (she was one of ‘the girls’ that Riches refers to in the texts). If there was a fracas, Key surely knew of it the next day and thought it of little note before he made a speech to the conference the next day in which he praised Gilmore….