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Cablegate: Former Opposition Leader Brash Resigns From

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWL #0954 3341821
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301821Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3561

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000954

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, AND EAP/ANP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV NZ
SUBJECT: FORMER OPPOSITION LEADER BRASH RESIGNS FROM
PARLIAMENT

REF: WELLINGTON 923

Classified By: ACTING DCM KATHERINE B. HADDA, REASONS 1.4 B/D

1. (C) Summary: Dr. Don Brash has resigned from Parliament,
barely a week after he resigned his leadership of the main
opposition National Party. Brash's five years in office,
particularly the three as party leader, were characterized by
controversy. As leader he elevated National's status but he
had become a political liability. Although Brash appears to
have voluntarily fallen on his sword, it is also likely that
that his colleagues pressed him to leave. The timing of his
departure may have been a surprise, however. End Summary.

Brash to leave the political stage in the New Year
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) Seven days after resigning as the leader of the
National Party, Brash announced before a press conference
today that he was leaving parliamentary politics for good.
Brash, an MP for only five years (three as leader), said he
would stay in office for a few weeks, but would not return to
Parliament in the New Year. Brash said that he had
"constructive" meetings with new leader John Key two days ago
and again today but had decided to leave. After he resigned
as leader, Brash had said that he would only stay in politics
if the new leader gave him a portfolio of significance to
manage. In today's press conference, Brash would not say
whether he had sought a specific portfolio from Key.

3. (SBU) Brash denied that the book by researcher, Nicky
Hager, The Hollow Men, which detailed his political links
with the Exclusive Brethren religious movement (reftel), was
a factor in his resignation, instead claiming he had decided
it was the right time to leave Parliament. Brash said that he
will "be seeking other avenues to contribute to New Zealand's
future." Asked whether this meant he would look at
directorships of companies, Brash said yes, although not
directorships of SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) "with this
Government". Under New Zealander's proportional
representation system, Brash will be replaced by the next
candidate on National's list, Wellington accountant Katrina
Shanks. The number of National's seats in Parliament remain
unchanged.

4. (C) Comment: Pundits have been suggesting for days that
Key and possibly other members of the party would ease Brash
out of Parliament. Many political observers believed that
Brash's continued presence in Parliament would have been
detrimental to the National Party, especially given the fresh
start Key is trying to make. But while many predicted his
departure, the timing may have been a surprise. When Brash
resigned, Pol-Econ Counselor happened to be speaking with
National Party Foreign Affairs and Defence spokesman Murray
McCully at a foreign policy seminar sponsored by the National
Party. National MP Tim Groser told McCully the news, which
he said he had "heard from a journalist, so don't take my
word for it." McCully is a consummate Party insider and
close confidante of Brash and has been working closely with
Key on the new leader's transition.

5. (C) Although Brash is respected within the party for
vastly elevating its popularity after the crushing 2002
election, the regularity of his political gaffes and the
ongoing controversies that continued to swirl around him
meant that he had become a liability for the party. His time
was effectively up. Brash himself alluded to this in today's
statement when he said that he had consulted colleagues and
their advice had been mixed. He revealed that some said,
"you've done a fantastic job for the National Party. You're
work on that has finished." The recent weeks have also
clearly been a strain for Brash, as newspaper articles today
claimed he had fought back tears while being interviewed in
New Plymouth yesterday.
McCormick

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