Hager Book: Brash assisted to power by business lobby [+ Pictures]

Nicky Hager's book The Hollow Men hitting bookshop shelves today aims to give an insight into the dealings behind the National party.

Publication of the controversial book was held up until today by an injunction obtain by Don Brash last week to prevent publication of emails allegedly "stolen" from his office computers.

Hager's book is based in part on emails and official documents leaked by members of the National.

Hager alleges in the book that Dr Brash would have been unlikely to have won the leadership vote in October 2003 if his National Party colleagues were aware of who was backing him into power.

Hager says Dr Brash was assisted by an "informal network of people from the right of New Zealand politics" including Roger Douglas, Michael Bassett, Ruth Richardson, past and present members of the New Zealand Business Roundtable and Act Party associates Brian Nicolle and Catherine Judd.

Hager outlines how Bassett presented himself as an independent commentator, but gave Dr Brash a campaign plan for his leadership challenge and ran a newspaper column entitled "Time to stand aside, Bill" in a Wellington newspaper on the day of the caucus vote.

The contents of the newspaper column were allegedly sent to Dr Brash prior to publication with a "good luck" note.

Hager devotes a chapter in the book to the strategies behind the January 2004 "Orewa speech" held at the Orewa Rotary Club - Dr Brash's first major speech as leader.

According to Hager the speech was written by a small group of close brash allies including Brash's chief strategist Peter Keenan, with input from National MP Murray McCully.

Hager says the speech was then passed to Michael Bassett "who had long held bitter and angry views about Maori history and treaty issues, which he wove into the speech".

The chapter also details how the influence of political strategist Matthew hooton was ended after an email from Keenan to Brash describing Hooton as "an idiot" who "is totally full of himself, and not half as good as his own self-image".

The final chapters of The Hollow Men deal with the funding behind the National Party designed to add millions of dollars to the election campaign without breaching National's $2.24 million legal spending cap.

Hager claims following a meeting between Dr Brash and businessmen Peter and Michael Talley in 2004 the brothers offered Dr Brash $1 million to help get National elected.

The Talley brothers are alleged to have prepared a proposal called "The repackaging of Don Brash" in conjunction with Motueka lawyer Nick Davidson.

The written proposal included details of a plan to set up a company or trust named Vco to manage the funding.

Quotes from the proposal in the book say that by directing the campaign spending through the privately controlled Vco, they "would avoid any declarations of political party funding".

Hager also details attendees at National Party corporate fundraisers and lists "high value" donors.

These include Alan Gibbs, Craig Heatley, David Richwhite, Diane Foreman, Doug Myers, Michael Friedlander, Peter Shirtcliffe and Rod Deane.

Hager describes the high value donors as representing the pro-free market reform lobby of the 1980's and 1990's renewing its "crusade" in the new century.

Dr Brash resigned from his position as leader of the National Party yesterday.

The National Party caucus will meet next Monday to appoint a new leader.

WHAT'S IN THE BOOK

# Brash assisted into National Party leadership in 2003 by members of the Act Party and right-wing conservatives outside the party.

# Divisive 2004 Orewa speech authored in part by political historian Michael Bassett.

# Details of party donors including allegations of a plan to hide party funding in a private company called Vco

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