Politics is a sleazy business - regardless of who is in power

REVELATIONS: Author Nicky Hager launched his latest book, Dirty Politics, in Wellington.
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ
REVELATIONS: Author Nicky Hager launched his latest book, Dirty Politics, in Wellington.

Newsflash, Nicky: Politics is a dirty business.

My first boss, friend and mentor Linda Clark once warned me that Parliament turns you feral. She was so right. 

So what of Nicky Hager’s new book Dirty Politics? It shouldn’t be simply dismissed as a vast Left-wing conspiracy – but it does need some context. All sides play games and dig dirt. That’s politics. 

What the book suggests is an orchestrated game of dirty deeds by some key players in the Beehive – Jason Ede in the Prime Minister’s office and Cabinet minister Judith Collins feeding their mate Cameron Slater, the blogger known as WhaleOil.  Collins is portrayed as the chief leaker – a ministerial gossip-monger. When does she get time to do her real job? 

I’ve largely got on with Slater in recent years, but I see he went after me when I suggested he needed to get a real job and make a positive contribution to society. The book says Slater asked his ex-prostitute friend for dirt on me. She came back saying she didn’t have any. That’s the way he rolls, he tends to go fishing in the sewer. 

While Collins was championing laws against cyber-bullying she was also busy feeding her mate WhaleOil dirt and gossip to help him brutalise people online. 

And what really was Ede’s role in the Beehive? I’ll admit I did business with Ede at times, as did many political journalists. The press gallery knew him to be a ‘‘black ops’’ chap – the guy with the shadowy job in the background. His remit, as far as the gallery knew, was to feed stories to the bloggers and journalists.

But how much did John Key know? What did he allow, what did he endorse and what did he support? Or did he just look the other way hoping none of this would get out?

It’s worth noting this shadowy attack-politics stuff is not new and not the sole domain of National.

The then Labour Party president Mike Williams took a well-publicised trip to Melbourne to dig dirt on Key ahead of the 2008 election. It backfired: Labour found nothing and subsequently dropped in the polls.

Helen Clark was probably the biggest gossip of them all when she led the country. She leaked and spread rumours about people and even those in her own team – I wonder how her private communications and those of her senior ministers would look splashed across a book. I bet it wouldn’t be pretty.

Her Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels was sacked for allegations ‘‘swirling’’ over allegedly having sex with someone under the age of consent decades previously – it was Clark and her team making them swirl.

Samuels, later exonerated by a police investigation, never got a fair hearing – the ninth floor of the Beehive killed him off. I was with him at his house the night he was sacked – he was devastated and blamed Clark for the dirty tricks.

The murky Left infiltrated a National Party cocktail function in 2008, secretly recorded MPs and leaked them (to me). 

I was also involved in a series of stories about former Cabinet minister John Tamihere over financial irregularities at his previous job at the Waipareira Trust which saw him sacked as a minister. When I got home, my house had been broken into. Nothing was taken but all the windows and doors had been left open. TV3 hired a security firm to change the locks, watch my kids at school and investigate the break-in. The firm concluded that someone wanted to frighten me – and we left it there. 

I also remember doing business with Labour’s chief of staff Matt McCarten in the 1990s, when he ran the Alliance. Matt was fun and charming – but let’s not kid ourselves, if anyone knew how to run a black ops sting it was him.

Senior Labour  ministers and press secretaries rang to point me toward The Standard, a Left-wing blog, to read its vitriol on certain days. Who had written those posts? I’m told many were written under fake names by Labour staffers paid by the taxpayer.

My point is politics is dirty, no matter who is in power. Hager seems genuinely surprised at this. Frankly I’m surprised at his naivety.   

Let’s not forget that Hager is a long-time critic of spy agencies and electronic surveillance – but he’s happy to accept and publish information taken from people’s computers without their consent. Dirty tricks indeed.

The Dominion Post