Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams' courtroom rant

NZ Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams has taken former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig to court ...
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

NZ Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams has taken former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig to court over defamation claims.

Colin Craig's defense team has finished calling witnesses, concluding all evidence in defamation proceedings taken against him. 

The proceedings finished in the High Court at Auckland with Craig's lawyers recalling Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams, who has taken the defamation action against Craig. 

The tense final examination of Williams prompted him to tell Craig's legal team that they had "s..." all over Craig's former press secretary Rachel MacGregor and accused them of "coming after" Williams.

In a leaflet circulated to 1.6 million households, Colin Craig accused Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams of being ...
PETER MEECHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

In a leaflet circulated to 1.6 million households, Colin Craig accused Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams of being part of an orchestrated campaign to remove him as leader of the Conservative Party.

The terse stand off between Williams and Craig's lawyer Stephen Mills QC was prompted after communications between Williams and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater were unearthed a week into the trial. 

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Where the communication originated and its contents can't be reported due to legal reasons. 

The court was told former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor and Colin Craig had a "very close ...
SUPPLIED

The court was told former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor and Colin Craig had a "very close relationship".

Williams said he was "embarrassed" by the communication and had apologised to the person who was the subject of the conversation. 

Mills QC said it was evidence that Williams used people for his own political advantage. 

Williams was adamant that the comments produced to the court, allegedly made by him, were falsified. 

ONE NEWS NOW

The former Conservative Party leader says that defending a defamation case taken against him is all about protecting his reputation.

He didn't want to reveal what he'd actually said during the conversation because it was "yuck" and "personal". 

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"I don't want to say what the comment was because it's really personal about [the person]. I don't want to say it. The thing is I can't produce the original. I can't prove to you, but I know the circumstances. I wouldn't have said that. I said something yuck. The opposite." 

Mills QC put to Williams he was "prepared to use people that are your friends for your wider political agendas".

Williams then slammed his fist on the witness box. 

"I supported [Rachel MacGregor] for eight months until that p... [Craig] started piddling on the [confidentiality] agreement.  

"You guys have come after me. You've said I'm a blackmailer, you've said I smeared the Serious Fraud Office. I can wear stuff that's [in the documents]. My whole life is out there, I've got everything of my life out there, and I wear some pretty embarrassing stuff. I can wear stuff that's there but I can't wear stuff that's not true. 

"You've s... on Rachel in this case. You can't help yourself." 

JURY DELIBERATES NEXT WEEK

The jury will be brought back to the High Court at Auckland next week to hear closing arguments from counsel and a summing up from Justice Sarah Katz. 

The three-week trial so far has detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Craig of his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor, the leaking of those allegations to Conservative board members and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater by Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams, and the leaflet Craig subsequently issued to label Williams a liar.

Williams said he approached board members and leaked a love poem to Slater because he didn't believe Craig was fit to lead the Conservatives, and he was concerned about MacGregor's allegations and her treatment by Craig. 

Witnesses for Craig have painted Williams as having a political agenda and having schemed to get Craig out of leadership. 

Williams argues his reputation was damaged when Craig delivered the leaflets to 1.6 million homes and held a press conference to allege him part of the "Dirty Politics brigade". 

Craig is relying on three defenses in the action against him - truth, honest opinion, and qualified privilege. 

It's the first time a jury in Auckland has been asked to determine a civil case since 2002. 

MACGREGOR DESCRIBED AS 'POSSESSIVE'

Earlier, two former Conservative Party workers have described former press secretary Rachel MacGregor as "possessive" of former leader Colin Craig and unable to cope with her workload. 

Former part-time worker Angela Storr said she became close with MacGregor, who confided in her that working for Craig and his wife was the best thing that had happened to her and "went on about how wonderful [Craig] was". 

"She told me that she had a very close relationship with both Colin and [wife] Helen and she had become part of their family. She told me how they had helped her financially because she had gotten herself into a lot of debt after she left TVNZ," Storr said. 

"Rachel was very possessive of Colin's time. She was forever fussing over him. 

"Everything about Colin's image and the way he was dressed and presented himself was due to Rachel's personal efforts. 

"This kind of treatment was all new for Colin. He wasn't comfortable wearing make up or the way he was being dressed as it wasn't his normal style or way of life up until then. Rachel was in charge of these particular aspects and Colin did as he was told." 

In the lead up to the 2014 general election she said MacGregor became "moody and difficult" and said she had encountered arguments between MacGregor and Craig about her work load. 

"On one occasion I heard Rachel accused Colin of being selfish and not giving her enough time to rest between events." 

Storr claimed she was having to cover for MacGregor more and more, which she said became a "standing joke" in the Conservative offices.  

"It was apparent to me that Rachel was overwhelmed with all of her duties and I started carrying more of her load," she said.  

Staff member Bev Adair Beets later took over MacGregor's duties as press secretary after her sudden resignation two days before the election. 

Prior to that they worked closely together, she said. 

"My general impressions with my discussions with Rachel was that she held a special status or power over Colin and could dictate what she was paid," Adair Beets said. 

She also described MacGregor as becoming "stressed" and "emotional" prior to the election. 

"I was very worried about her emotional state. She was adamant with me that she wanted money from Colin. She was very clear that she would be paid what she deserved and would do anything to get it. 

"She said, 'watch me, I'll get it. I can get whatever I want.' She told me she was going to make a stand." 

CRAIG'S RIGHT TO DEFEND HIMSELF 

On Friday morning former Conservative Party secretary Kevin Stitt defended Craig's publication of a leaflet where he claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign. 

The court heard that Stitt had helped circulate the leaflet Craig issued to 1.6 million households, entitled Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas, the content of which is at the centre of the defamation proceedings. 

In it, Craig accused Williams of being part of an orchestrated campaign to remove him as leader of the party. 

That was because Williams had taken allegations that Craig had sexually harassed MacGregor to Conservative board members. 

Stitt said he had emailed thousands of Conservative supporters and members with a link to the leaflet, but said he was unaware it was also delivered to millions of homes. 

In the email, titled "The gauntlet is laid", Stitt told its recipients that it was their chance to hear "the truth". 

"It was our view that we were simply providing a way for interested parties to access this information. It was the first time our supporters had the chance to read something from the former leader's perspective," Stitt said in his brief of evidence. 

"I considered Colin had every right to defend his reputation by responding to the wide spread public allegations about him, and if he was doing so Conservative Party followers surely had the right to hear that defence."

He denied taking sides or endorsing Craig's position, but said he believed Craig had "evidence" of the allegations of Williams' dishonesty in the leaflet. 

"I had been assured the evidence existed. Having talked to Colin about the publication on that day I also had no doubt that the booklet was a true reflection of what Colin believed had happened," Stitt said. 

Williams initially took court action against Stitt as well but dropped the proceedings in August. 

Stitt couldn't understand why he was named in the proceedings, he said. 

"It has been a very stressful and difficult year for me to be involved in this case. I have just been trying to do my best to defend myself. I really wondered why Mr Williams chose to go after me so hard, for so long, when my involvement was so minor." 

Presented with Craig's poems written to MacGregor, Stitt said the communication went "a little too far" but said MacGregor and Craig were close. 

"They had a very close relationship, that was obvious. They worked together for many years in close settings." 

'POLITICAL SADISTS'

Political commentator and blogger Martyn Bradbury on Friday afternoon told the court that Jordan Williams was "manipulative" and akin to a "venomous spider". 

Bradbury had the jury in fits of laughter as he also explained his disdain for Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. 

"Loathe is not strong enough a word," he said. 

His descriptions prompted Williams' lawyer Peter McKnight to suggest Bradbury was being "flippant". 

Bradbury gave evidence of Williams' character and criticised his relationship with Slater. 

Williams' leaking information about Craig to Slater was for Williams' "own political ends", Bradbury thought. 

He approved of the circulation of Craig's leaflet which called Williams dishonest. 

 "As far as I was concerned, I thought the leaflet was an appropriate response to a pack of political sadists," Bradbury said. 

"I think this [trial is] an angry fight between two people who don't like each other much. It's very, very important for the jury to find the truth in this." 

 - Stuff

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