The person behind the WhaleDump leaks gave the Herald an exclusive with all the emails about Slater and his prostitute friend. That’s significant for several reasons. (1) The Herald reaches the same conclusions Hager did, so this is an exercise in building confidence and integrity in Hager and his book, (2) it tarnishes Key with some of Slater’s most vile dirt and (3) this seems like a really, really well planned and well executed communications strategy, doesn’t it?
Cameron Slater and Jason Ede considered themselves masters of political ‘black-ops’. (There was a Dom-Post editorial recently taking Nicky Hager to task for using such a loaded term, but someone who worked for National during their first term told me a while ago, with some amusement, that Ede did, actually refer to himself as a ‘black-ops’ guy, and that this mostly consisted of reading Hansards of Phil Goff’s speeches from the 1980s and 90s and finding ways in which Goff had changed his mind in the last thirty years, then running around the Beehive yelling ‘I’ve nailed the bastard! He’s finished!’) Anyway, Slater and Ede and look like amateurs compared to the black op currently being conducted against them and their party.
We’ve seen third parties intervene in New Zealand elections before. In 2005 the Exclusive Brethren ran an anonymous negative campaign against Labour and the Greens. They put out a bunch of pamphlets. But that was in collaboration with National, even if they didn’t admit it. I don’t think these people are collaborating with any political party. And if they manage to change the minds of, say, 20,000 voters who switch from National to Labour, then a group of anonymous activists will have managed to change the government.
That’s a big deal. I’m sure they would say they’re just helping voters make an informed decision by putting information before them. And I think voters should know about National and their contacts with Slater. That was a really stupid, horrible decision and people have a right to know about it. But having a group of anonymous activists breaking the law to target political parties they don’t like and then waging a full-scale war against them in the media during an election campaign is new territory. I don’t think this has happened in any other democratic country before. It’s one of the reasons National are so dumbfounded and clumsy in their responses. They can’t go to Crosby/Textor (or whoever) and say ‘What do we do here? What have your clients in other countries done?’ Because this hasn’t happened to anyone.