- Date published:
2:09 pm, March 9th, 2010 - 40 comments
Categories: bill english, john key, national - Tags: david farrar, don brash, hollow men, katherine rich, mary english, nicky hager
Michael is dead right. The most important thing about the Hollow Men is not how Nicky Hager got the information but what the information is. It reveals National’s modern politics in all its unprincipled ugliness. It shows National as a party that wants power for its own sake and will use any of the dirty tricks in the Crosby-Textor handbook to get there.
Nonetheless, which Nats gave Hager the information is a subject of legitimate interest. People high in National’s ranks were prepared to deal with the enemy to hurt their party and destroy their leader. Public knowledge of who that is would be hugely damaging for the Government because some very senior figures would be exposed as traitors (albeit, noble traitors whose actions shed light on some very dodgy and dishonest, even corrupt, practices).
So here’s some wild speculation. In the spirit of John Key, I can’t back any of this up with solid evidence. It’s just my ideas:
In the preface to Hollow Men, Nicky Hager thanks the six figures in and near National who gave him most of his material. He dedicated the book to the “principled conservatives of the National Party”. When asked if the leakers were still involved in politics, Hager said “yes“.
John Key rejected that:
“I think the computer system was hacked into. That’s my view, but I can’t back that up,”
He had his own theory on who did it, but would not name anyone.
“This is not Agatha Christie’s whodunit. I just don’t know.”
He rejected suggestions the leaks came from disgruntled National Party insiders. “That’s a great sort of nonsense, sort of fiction put out by the Left. `Bollocks’ is another way of putting it, if you want.”
To which Hager responded:
“If anyone doesn’t believe the police now, well, they’re cranky and not to be taken seriously.”
He said it was incredibly undignified that Mr Key had come up with such a wacky idea that the emails had been hacked.
“Anybody who understands computers and things like hacking will know it is completely impossible. For John Key to be raising that now is really surprising. He’s obviously not taking an evidence-based approach … because there is no grounds for that.”
We have no reason to doubt Nicky Hager’s word: he has not been caught lying on anything to do with the Hollow Men and he is far from being an agent for Labour. In contrast, we have every reason to doubt Key’s word: he has no evidence to back his claims that it was some outsider, he has every reason in the world to not want senior National figures revealed as Hager’s sources, and his response is irrational and angry.
Moreover, the only plausible way for this information to get into Hager’s hands was from insiders who were in authorised possession of the material leaking to him. David Farrar’s stupid last ditch ruse, that someone could have broken into Brash’s office and copied the emails on to a memory stick is laughable. That person would have had to get past a security door, past the office staff, and past the password on the computer. And that still wouldn’t explain Hager’s non-email materials.
So leakers it is, but who?
John Key: opportunity and motive, yes. Key was the big winner from the Hollow Men. In 2006, he had been trying to tip Brash all year (apparently there had been a failed coup), then the Hollow Men comes out and Brash resigns (before it’s even released) leaving the way open for Key. And Key gets off relatively lightly in the book.
But Hager dedicated the book to “the principled conservatives in the National Party” and I don’t think anyone would call Key a principled anything. And, somehow, it just doesn’t strike me as Key’s style. Too much work. Too much personal risk. Plus, while there isn’t much detail on Key he is implicated in dodgy and dishonest behaviour, including his meeting with the Exclusive Brethren. It’s unlikely he’d put that out there himself if he intended to follow up the book’s release with a tilt at the leadership.
Bill English: motive and opportunity as well. English had good reason to want to see Brash go down. More importantly, English would have liked to see Brash lose in 2005 or toppled (with himself as obvious replacement). That could explain why Hager started getting the leaks in 2004. You’ll recall that there was an effort to get English in as leader when Brash resigned, but it didn’t get far.
Mary English: the Lady McBeth theory. Mary was on the same school board as Hager. She wouldn’t have had access to the papers herself but could have acted as a bridge between English and others on the inside to Hager.
Female Brash staffer: You’ll recall that Brash turned out to the world’s most unlikely Casanova. It seems that Brash though the Hollow Men was going to reveal his affair with Diane Foreman, which it didn’t. But why would he think that? The scuttlebutt has always been that Brash was having a second affair with a staffer in his office (whose name, if I recall correctly, comes up a couple of times in Hollow Men but whose role is never explained). When this staffer got wind of the Foreman affair she decided to leak to Hager. I find it a little hard to believe she could have done it all alone over two years, but if she had been recruited by English…
David Farrar: He is close to the English family and ran the numbers for English during the Brash coup. He thought he had them sown up too but then Key switched sides at the last minute. In the Hollow Men documentary, there’s video of Farrar and English at Backbenchers the night before the caucus vote celebrating their impending victory, which turned out to be Brash’s victory. Farrar worked in Brash’s office on IT. Bomber highlights some inconsistencies in his story here.
Others close to English: Hager refers to six people. So far, we have four likely suspects. It’s highly unlikely that anyone would have come to Hager independently of the others, so we’re looking for people close to English.
People like Nick Smith and Tony Ryall, English’s fellow brat packers, and experienced practitioners of the ‘dark arts’ that English had largely steered clear of until then.
Or Katherine Rich. She was close to English, and left mysteriously, and quickly, before the last election. What if Rich couldn’t handle the pressure, or even if she was caught out somehow and her position became untenable? They certainly wouldn’t release it to the media – and it would explain why she resigned for no apparent reason just as she was reaching the prime of her career.
So there’s my pick for the half dozen – Bill and Mary English, the female staffer, Farrar, and others like Rich, Smith, and Ryall. I see Whaleoil has a post up suggesting the same names: the Englishs, Farrar, and a ‘rogue staffer’.
What are your theories?