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Key should explain Lord Ashcroft's links

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister

3 September 2008 Media Statement

Key should explain Lord Ashcroft link with Crosby - Textor

After another day of evasive answers and lies from John Key, the National Leader should explain exactly what the purpose of his meeting with Lord Ashcroft was, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said.

During an embarrassing interview on Monday, Mr Key eventually admitted that he had had a meeting Lord Michael Ashcroft – the Deputy Chair of the British Conservative Party and a multi-million dollar donor to right wing political parties.

Mr Key refused to say who had arranged the meeting, what had been discussed, and what the ongoing relationship between Lord Ashcroft and the National Party is.

This morning on television, Mr Key said that he had met Lord Ashcroft because he “advises David Cameron every week ah, on polling and research and the likes ah”.

Later on radio he revealed that his own office had arranged the meeting at the request of National campaign strategist and MP Murray McCully.

“Meeting with Lord Ashcroft in and of itself is not the issue here,” Dr Cullen said. “But Mr Key’s evasiveness and clear discomfort at answering questions about his meeting has certainly raised suspicions.

“It is well known that Lord Ashcroft played a pivotal role in bringing controversial Australian strategists Crosby Textor to assist the British Tories in the 2005 election. Lord Ashcroft blames the late hiring of the firm – who have been widely criticised for their divisive, racially charged tactics – for the Conservative defeat in that election.

“Mr Key clearly felt there was some reason to keep the meeting secret and did not want to answer questions about it on Monday and again on television today. Mr Key needs to explain exactly what sort of assistance Lord Ashcroft is providing.

“Does he have any connection to the use of Crosby Textor here in New Zealand? If not, what exactly is he doing to help?”

Dr Cullen said that Mr Key had also misled television viewers this morning when he said ”I never solicit donations” despite leaked emails from the 2005 campaign that show Mr Key was in fact heavily involved in raising funds from donors.

“He also claimed that National “don’t break the law”. Has Mr Key forgotten that at the last election National overspent its television advertising allowance by more than $100,000 when it failed to account for GST?”

“If there is nothing to hide, why is Mr Key so obviously uncomfortable talking about his meeting with Lord Ashcroft and willing to mislead New Zealanders to divert attention from it? This is strange behaviour from the man who wants to be Prime Minister.”

ENDS

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