Peter Debnam isn’t the only conservative opposition leader unable to poke a major hole into an exposed Labor government.  New Zealand National Party leader Don Brash resigned yesterday after a troubled leadership dogged by allegations of links to the shadowy Exclusive Brethren sect. The Nats select their new leadership team on Monday. The Brethren allegations have become particularly damaging in the context of the imminent release of a new book by Kiwi leftist author Nicky Hager entitled The Hollow Men  A Study in the Politics of Deception. Hager alleges that Don Brash came to the leadership on the back of support from allegedly shadowy Right wing individuals and groups outside the formal National party structures.  These include former NZ Finance Minister Roger Douglas and members of the allegedly liberal ACT Party.  More explosively, the Nats had knowledge of Brethren political activity since May 2005, longer than they had publicly claimed. Hager’s information is taken from six disgruntled Nats, and includes the text of allegedly secret email correspondence between Brash and constituents. The impending publication of the secret emails led the book to become the subject of an interim injunction application in the NZ High Court by Mr Brash who claimed to be acting to protect the privacy of constituents.  The NZ Herald and two TV stations then approached the High Court seeking the lifting of the injunction which they claim breaches Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights (yes, like virtually all English-speaking Western democracies, they have one of those!) which affirms and protects freedom of expression. Brash eventually applied himself to have the injunction lifted. Last week, Brash and his colleagues used Parliamentary privilege to attack Hager as “a media whore”. Their attacks did little more than provide Hager’s claims with plenty of publicity. The book hits NZ bookshops today and will no doubt fill many a Kiwi Christmas stocking!

Peter Fray

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