A Wellington businessman has challenged Napier MP Stuart Nash's claims that a report into starting a new political party by National Party and Dirty Politics figure Simon Lusk was commissioned without his knowledge.
An 18-month-old email emerged this week, sent to the Labour MP from his campaign manager Rob Johnson.
Mr Johnson said in the email: "You had two friends of yours commission a report from Simon Lusk to the tune of 10 grand as to whether you could gain more influence by establishing your own political party in competition with Labour, or whether you should just essentially buy-off your colleagues."
Mr Nash said the email, though authentic, was the result of a misunderstanding.
Wellington businessman Troy Bowker and a man known only as "Ned" approached Mr Nash about starting a new political party. He said he told them he wasn't interested and, unbeknownst to him, they commissioned a report with Mr Lusk.
Mr Nash said Mr Johnson sent the surfaced email because he mistakenly believed Mr Nash had commissioned the report himself. But Mr Bowker told Hawke's Bay Today yesterday that, contrary to Mr Nash's version of events, the Napier MP told them to come back when the report was done.
"We might have had an early conversation with Stuart, he said he wasn't that keen on the idea ... He said let me know when you've had a look at the report." Mr Bowker and his business associate "Ned" approached Stuart Nash proposing to set up a new "centre, centre-right [political] party", and Mr Nash was aware a report was being commissioned.
Mr Nash yesterday maintained he didn't know about the report until after the fact.
"I didn't know they were going to commission a report."
He also said the proposed political party "wasn't a centre-right political party in any way, shape or form," instead describing it as "centrist but pragmatic".
Mr Bowker said he'd "known Stu for years", and described him as "a person who appeals to both sides"."At the time he was a bit disenfranchised with the Labour Party and we thought he'd be a good candidate."
He added: "It wasn't going to be about Stuart Nash. We were talking to a number of people anyway."
The finished report from Mr Lusk showed setting up the new political party could prove "a long and costly process".
"We binned it. It's no big deal. We had a chat to Stu when we got the report back. It didn't make very good reading."
Mr Johnson broke his silence on the matter yesterday, saying: "I back Stuart Nash 100 per cent."
"The email that's been circulated is a historical email, obviously taken out of context. Stuart and I have clearly resolved any issues, given we've worked together closely for two and a half years and we've managed a very successful campaign."