Politics have a way of making us out to be fools and liars. Last week, I dismissed Dirty Politics as a sideshow. Then Judith Collins resigned.
Her resignation is no sideshow. It's a big event. The biggest.
It wasn't the book that brought her down. Or even the hacker. No, it was the flow-on tsunami. The "smoking gun" email was forwarded to the Prime Minister's office to forewarn Key of what possibly might come out. That's what triggered her resignation.
But it seems the hacker didn't have the email. The email itself was originally from Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. It set out a media and blogging plan to attack the Serious Fraud Office on behalf of Mark Hotchin, whom the Serious Fraud Office was investigating.
In the email Slater says Collins was "gunning" for then SFO head Adam Feeley. At the time, Feeley was under fire from all manner of media.
The email implicates Collins in a conspiracy to damage the head of the SFO. It's a very big deal. Sadly, it wouldn't be the first time a minister has used underhand tactics and media help to dump a department head, but it's horribly wrong and Collins would be the first minister caught.
But Collins denies that she did anything of the sort. And the email's author says he was "embellishing".
Certainly, the messages from Slater released so far demonstrate his tendency to exaggerate. He could well have been big-noting among his friends and business associates.
So Collins has been sunk by an email, sent in by a Government supporter, that the two parties directly involved say isn't true. Phew. Well, one of the many inquiries under way is to attempt to get to the bottom of that.
Next, we have Facebook chats between Slater and Collins that have supposedly been hacked and then leaked. These look bad, too.
In these chats, Slater is discussing with Collins that police evidence is to be leaked to him, and the minister is gleeful at the prospect.
Collins says she has "no record" of the chats. She suggests they are forged. Slater says he never Facebook-chatted with Collins. I have got so lost in all of this I am not sure whether the chat's authenticity is under investigation or not.
The most boring election race has become our wildest. The most predictable of outcomes is now hard to call.
The election campaign is being overshadowed by the continual release of stolen private messages whose authenticity is in question.
The anonymous hacker has sat on the messages for months, supposedly to cause maximum electoral disruption. The hacker is succeeding.
If the content of the messages is true we have had a shocking minister. If not true, there has been a shocking smear. The trouble is I don't know what's true and what's not. Do you?
Debate on this article is now closed.