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Molesworth & Featherston (Weekend) – Oct. 8 2006

Molesworth & Featherston - Weekend Update edition

Business and Political News
October 8th 2006

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Election spending
Brady punch

As the auditor-general Kevin Brady prepares his final election spending report, to be released next week, he continues to prune the amount he believes the various parties “unlawfully” spent. The latest to declare himself squeaky clean personally was Trade Minister Phil Goff whose two yearly newsletter that has been running for nine years - and cost a few thousand bucks - was declared within the rules, just as the Green Party Green Times newsletter had been before. However, the Labour caucus heard this week that Brady was still adamant about the bulk of the $800,000 he had found it had spent. It now looks as if a report absolving Labour and all the other parties of deliberate wrong-doing is on the cards, but Labour may still choose to pay it back to clear the political air. Individual back-benchers should be bracing themselves for a bill of at least $10,000 each.

Bill’s will

The National Party caucus is nowhere near united around John Key as the likely replacement for Don Brash - according to his potential rival Bill English.

Last week we said a leadership spill had been explicitly discussed before the 26 September caucus, but got dropped when polls showed National surging ahead of Labour. And we added “Mr Key has emerged by consensus as the leader in waiting. Gerry Brownlee is safe as deputy.” That brought a heavily pregnant response from Bill English in an email to us: “As an expert on leadership changes, the caucus came nowhere near it in recent weeks although there was a fair bit of bluster, and certainly no ‘consensus’.”

If there were no consensus, who would the other candidate be? Looks like a declaration to us. The caucus never came close to launching a coup - as we noted, Mr Key left the country. But Mr English's note confirms the prospect was canvassed. It fits our soundings that a challenge is most likely in February or March 2007. John Key would need to keep Gerry Brownlee on as his number two to be sure of the numbers. That may only be a temporary thing while Mr Key proves himself as a leader in the rough and tumble of the House and on the stump against Prime Minister Helen Clark.


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