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Molesworth & Featherston (Weekend) – Sept 17 2006

Molesworth & Featherston - Weekend Update edition

Business and Political News
September 17th 2006

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National’s leadership
The sequence

The ‘he-did-it-no-she-did-it’ blame game for making Don Brash’s marriage a political issue has rumbled on because just about everyone accused has had a role.

The episode has been the subject of rumours for months. Nothing new there - parliament runs on rumours; most of them are rubbish and more of them irrelevant anyway. Trevor Mallard and David Benson-Pope referred to the rumours in interjections during parliament’s question time. Mr Benson-Pope might feel he is only giving back some of what he took (National called him a ‘pervert’ after all, a disgraceful low point in politics which Don Brash should have punished at the time). Mr Mallard had fewer excuses.

Yet those interjections may have counted for little until reporters followed up the threat to escalate a war of grubby personal attacks. Once the threat was made reporters were always going to want to know what the stories were that were being referred to.

Meanwhile, rumours about Helen Clark’s family had been raised with her (stories didn’t run because they were wrong). Some felt it was only fair the pressure should be applied to the other side as well. So late in the week (a week ago) Don Brash was asked by reporters about the rumours referred to in the House. Those questions brought the issue out in his marriage. It also brought the issue onto his colleague’s radar.

Dr Brash raised the issue of personal attacks himself in caucus. It was then Brian Connell asked directly whether Dr Brash had been lying to his wife. And it was only after that caucus things spilled into public when the story was fuelled by two factors: Off the record confirmation from rivals positioning for a change of leadership, and Dr Brash’s own handling of the issue. If he had refused comment on the first newspaper reports - and fired back at personal attacks - queasy news media would not have drawn the story out for a week.

His early handling of the episode - showing again his poor political radar - is more damaging than the substance. His colleague’s reluctance to say he is secure in the leadership shows the pack is circling.


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