In a candid interview, sensitively reported by Ruth Laugeson, Don Brash says he wishes he’d been a bit more radical when he led National.
The whole interview is worth reading, not least for the admission that the sad reality of politics is that what you believe to be right doesn’t always win elections.
In the print edition of the Sunday Start Times, but not on line, are Don’s answers to several questions. I was particularly interested in his response to the one about whether or not he knew about the Exclusive Brethren’s anti-Green election pamphlet: “The impression was that I lied to the public. I don’t think even looking aback and trying to recall the detail that I lied in any way at all in that area.”
This was a case where the media, aided by several other political parties got it wrong. The TV footage where Rod Donald thrust the pamphlet at Don and asked if he knew about it has been screened several times and each time his body language echoes what he says – he doesn’t know anything about it. I am certain he was telling the truth at the time and only later did he join the dots between that pamphlet and an earlier meeting with the EB. I accept that once he’d made the connection he didn’t handle it well but it’s not easy to explain something like this in a 20 second sound-bite especially if you feel you’re not in a position to speak about a conversation held in private.
Owen McShane wrote in the NBR after the 2005 election (I can’t find it on line) that he’d been in a similar position because the Greens had come to him as a consultant and spoken about their plans but when the pamphlets first surfaced he didn’t make the connection. When he began to suspect they might be behind the campaign, client confidentiality meant he wasn’t in a position to say anything publicly until the Brethren admitted their involvement.
At the same time as Don was being accused of lying, other National MPs (Gerry Brownlee in particular) were accusing Labour of illegally spending taxpayers’ money on their pledge card. Had the latter got the media attention of the former, the election result might have been very different.