THE next couple of weeks in politics ought to be fascinating as we see if history is about to repeat itself following the publication of another explosive investigative journalism paperback by Nicky Hager.
Hager is the go-to journalist for leakers, and I well remember the launch of Seeds of Distrust during the 2002 Election Campaign.
In the early months of 2002 Helen Clark's Labour Party was dominant in all polling with results in the mid to high fifties. It looked as though Labour would be able to govern alone with no support parties. (Sound familiar?).
Helen set the election date for July 27, two or three months earlier than would have been necessary.
The reason given for the early election was the collapse of a coalition partner, the Alliance, into warring factions, but the real reason was Labour's polling dominance.
As campaign manager and Labour Party president, I anticipated an easy ride to victory. Helen Clark was popular, the economy was sound, the Labour Party was united and other matters like fundraising, candidate selection and organisation had gone well.
A few weeks out from Election Day, Helen suffered an "ambush" interview conducted by TV3's John Campbell. Ignoring the innocuous subject matter for the interview that had been communicated to Helen's press secretary, Campbell launched the scandal that was to become known as "Corngate".
Very briefly, Nicky Hager had researched an incident in November 2000 where a shipment of corn seeds from the USA had initially tested positive for genetic modification, illegal in New Zealand at the time.
What followed was headless-chook behaviour by officials who tossed up between ripping out a large crop and doing nothing.
Clark, rather than acting precipitately, kept a clear head and relied on the best scientific advice.
We will never quite get to the bottom of this sequence of events, but the best guess is that the initial test was a "false positive", just like the recent botulism in milk powder scare.
As the Corngate debate intensified, I watched Labour's poll support melt away.
Labour's huge lead turned into just over 40 per cent on the day, enough to lead a re-elected government, but nowhere near the heady level of just weeks before.
Hager's latest piece of inspired excavation may just have the same effect and equally jeopardise John Key's march to re-election.
Dirty Politics essentially tracks a John Key office staff member, Jason Ede and National Party Minister, Judith Collins' relationship with bloggers, specifically Cameron Slater and David Farrar. Both of these men are overt National Party supporters.
Both Ede and Collins are alleged to have been passing negative scuttlebutt about opposition politicians to these sites to discredit their opponents.
These internet blog sites are essentially on-line forums where anonymous punters can pretty well say what they like without fear of retribution. Comments are controlled by blog owners (Slater and Farrar), so the "debate" will reflect their prejudices and agendas. (I once naively contributed to Napier Mayor, Bill Dalton's blog. Predictably, my words never saw the light of day.)
National was clearly surprised by this turn of events, just as Labour was in 2002.
It seems that following a particularly nasty blog post by Slater, where his headline read "Feral dies in Greymouth, does the world a favour" (don't ask!) there was a denial of service attack on Slater's site. This amounts to a vast number of emails arriving at once and it causes a kind of electronic insanity.
During this attack, large amounts of information apparently spewed out of the site, including gigabytes of Slater's emails. Slater should have simply unplugged his server. He didn't.
These emails predictably landed in the hands of Nicky Hager, who has organised them into a sell-out read.
So Helen Clark had Corngate, John Key has Bloggate.
Dirty Politics is a compelling read. Not so much for the juvenile but sometimes successful attempts to set up National's enemies, and indeed defeat opposing factions within the divided National Party, but for the nasty, obscene, malicious, patronising and vindictive nature of their exchanges.
These are "born to rule" Tories who think that there are no human decencies they need to respect.
These participants are much closer to the Prime Minister than the confused officials who generated Corngate. Ede is a direct report to John Key, Collins is a Cabinet Minister.
As the normally conservative New Zealand Herald pointed out, if the Prime Minister didn't know what was going on, he should have.
In the final analysis, the collaborators in this stupid outrage were too arrogant to heed the eleventh commandment.
Thou shalt not get caught.
This scandal is likely to fester, and the PM should take decisive action.
A quick clean out is required.
As a wise old mate reminded me today, if you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
¦Mike Williams is a former Labour Party president who grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is a director of Auckland Transport and chief executive officer of the NZ Howard League.