State Of It: The Affair, Who Cares? It's A Matter Of Failed Strategy
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop co-editor
ALSO, Scoop Audio: (click here to listen) Selwyn Manning and 95bFM's Simon Pound discuss why the Brash affair debate has nothing to do with morals but one of political strategy errors. Can Brash yet be rolled?
This extra-marital affair between Don Brash and the Business Round-Table's Diane Foreman becoming public knowledge, probably would not have happened if National had not sought to link the Taito Phillip Field case, with attacks on Labour's integrity re the election campaign spending fiasco.
Labour's rabid MP, Trevor Mallard, tossed the AFFAIR word into an interjection, while Don Brash was attacking Labour in the House on integrity grounds. National was, as a consequence of its high moral ground, climbing in the polls. Indeed the Molesworth and Featherston poll of polls displayed National three percentage points ahead of Labour.
National, it could be argued, was successful in mixing the two issues together and presenting Labour to the voting public as a party of sleaze merchants.
Labour was therefore forced to counter the strategy, and clearly the job was handed to Mallard. The effect of the interjection was enough for Don Brash's minders to notice how close and raw the rumours were.
The affair rumours were of course well known to most of us in the political media since immediately prior to last year's election campaign. It is surprising that Don Brash appeared unaware that others knew about it, and more surprising that, if some National MPs are to believed, many in National's caucus were as much in the dark as the New Zealand public was.
But the eventual fallout has not got so much to do with whether Don Brash should have been putting it about, but rather that of political strategy. He failed to contain the issue in a way that would secure his own integrity in the eyes of his politicians.
The public must remember, that Brash challenged Helen Clark on the sanctity of the Marriage institution. The morals of the affair are not so much in question here, but rather how he exposed the National Party to questioning of its own integrity.
Therefore, the affair has not so much exposed Don Brash to being labelled with a sleazy handle, but, again, rather the resulting raw disloyalty within the National Party caucus.
Among those loyal to him, National MP Judith Collins delivered a sterling performance on National Radio. Collins put on a grand show, a quiver of voice, a slight breathlessness, almost compassion for children in evidence. Marvellous, but really it seemed too well scripted to be passed as mere drivel.
Collins said on National Radio: "I don't comment on people's private lives and certainly when Trevor Mallard and David Benson-Pope made their allegations in Parliament about Dr Brash's private life they crossed the line. "You've got children involved here. The people who choose to bring families into it - they're just a disgrace."
But as the Americans say: Whatever!
One wonders whether Collins shed a tear when Brash lashed out at Labour leader, Helen Clark's version of marriage. I think not. Perhaps (going by Collins' values) it was ok due to the Prime Minister having not had children. Weird rationale one could say.
Should Brash resign? Or wait a month or two to be rolled? That's the situation his foot-soldier strategists will be preoccupied with, all-the-while responding publicly that the majority in caucus is behind him.
From the National Party's point of view, Brash has lifted it in the polls to a lead position. He has done his job.
If the National Party can hold onto its corporate sector funders, and its business sector support, then Brash can be rolled.
But National strategists must first solicit that support before its caucus makes a move. They know that. If National's men can achieve that, and suggest a new, palatable, likely leader, then Brash will go.
This current session of Parliament has seen the debate sink to an uncomfortable low.
But it's got a way to go before it achieves the stench of Rob Muldoon's effluvium over the Colin Moyle affair. Muldoon stood up in the House and basically said Moyle had been cruising for men – at that time in our history homosexuality was unlawful - even though public attitudes largely did not find offence over one's sexuality.
However, Muldoon got what he sought, Moyle resigned, a by-election was held, Moyle returned but a broken man.
That was, I believe, the low point, and a demonstration of how low Parliament can sink given the motive.
KiwiFM Audio: Wammo talks to National finance spokesperson, John Key, about his comments regarding Don Brash.