Brethren disown political 'secret seven'

The Exclusive Brethren have said a group of their members considering waging an election campaign against the Government are acting independently of the church.

Official spokesman Tony McCorkell said the group - dubbed "the secret seven" for its covert pamphlet campaign against Labour and the Greens in 2005 - are not acting on instruction from the church.

One of the seven, Neville Simmons, said recently the group was considering another campaign against the Government next year and wanted to preserve the right of third parties to have their voices heard.

Whether the group mounted another campaign depended on the will of the seven individuals but it was "under consideration," he said.

Mr McCorkell, who will be in New Zealand tomorrow and Thursday, told Radio New Zealand today that the seven men were businessmen rather than church leaders.

"The seven men aren't acting on behalf of the church and certainly aren't acting on any instructions from Australia or from New Zealand or from anybody in the church.

"They're a group of concerned businessmen, family men, taxpayers that are having their voice and the church hasn't been involved in that.

Mr Simmons maintains the group's 2005 campaign was never anonymous, and was appropriately authorised.

He said the approach was effective although they could have done things better, and might go about it in a different way if they had their time again.

He and his colleagues are still discussing whether they will be involved in next year's election and have not yet reached a decision.
The group has spoken out about the Government's plans to reform electoral laws.

It is understood that under the proposed changes the cost of "third-party" campaigns would be capped at $60,000 -- far below the $1.2 million believed to have been spent by the seven Brethren members.

Mr McCorkell added: "If seven Anglicans got together I don't think the Anglican Church would be embroiled."

He said he had not been aware of all the activities of the group of seven at the last election.

He also suggested Prime Minister Helen Clark's attacks on the Brethren movement itself amount to cheap political point scoring because she does not have much to lose by attacking a church whose members mostly do not vote.

Mr McCorkell said it was up to individual members whether they voted in elections, but the majority of Brethren members did not.

He said the church did not stop members from voting but nor did it encourage them to.

- NZPA, NEWSTALK ZB

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