War being waged within National

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 08:08 09/05/2012
Simon Lusk
National Party supporter and consultant Simon Lusk.

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Leaked board minutes hint at a war being waged within National over the influence of a consultant who set up a breakaway candidates college.

National board members were unhappy that Simon Lusk was running unsanctioned training camps for wannabe National MPs with Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater.

A weekend conference was held at Puhoi in January. But despite a warning from senior party officials to stay away, five National MPs and about 20 political hopefuls attended.

Senior whip Michael Woodhouse told the board meeting in March that he had "a discussion" with MPs about Mr Lusk "to let them know it is not appropriate . . . to engage".

He went on to report a "disturbing discussion that he has had with Simon Lusk that highlighted his motivations and a very negative agenda for the party".

Despite the warning, a second event was held in Christchurch last month and two MPs and about 15 potential candidates showed up.

The leaked minutes were yesterday distributed by Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who said they revealed "disturbing internal ructions".

Mr Lusk - a consultant who has worked on the campaigns for MPs Louise Upston, Chris Tremain, Nicky Wagner and Sam Lotu-Iiga - did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

But Slater, who publishes the Whaleoil blog, said they began running the alternative candidates schools after requests from younger party members.

He said Mr Lusk was "totally loyal" to the National Party.

The two-day conferences were "quite strategic" and centred on making candidates electable.

A National insider denied there was a serous rift.

"Simon's a bit of a loose element. . . . but there's no civil war in National. There's not a lot [of relevance] apart from there are people in the National party who don't like each other."

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- The Dominion Post

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