OPINION: Boom. Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics is the first grenade lobbed on the 2014 campaign trail. And it will reverberate a lot longer than the thunder clap which shook Wellington yesterday.
The jury is still out on whether Hager has the smoking gun that directly implicates John Key or his government in some of the more sordid claims. Without the thousands of raw emails that Hager says he obtained, readers can only judge the story on the basis of Hager’s interpretation of those exchanges.
Regardless, it has set the the tone for an election campaign which had already been shaping up as one of the ugliest in recent years.
Today’s Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll shows National in such a commanding lead it would probably take a bomb to shake off most of its supporters.
Hager’s book was a bombshell because it was dropped without warning. But there may already be so much smoke and confusion in the fallout that people will be inclined to tune it out.
The prime minister’s strategy yesterday of coming out swinging and labelling it a smear campaign against his government adds to that confusion.
Some of the dirt is bound to stick, given that not even Key has bothered to deny that he considers it quite legitimate for a senior member of his staff, or for that matter senior ministers and the prime minister himself, to feed a blog that thrives on salacious gossip and its shock jock reputation.
Voters may take the view that it’s simply confirmation that all politicians are happy to wallow in the same mudpool.
But Hager’s book, and Kim Dotcom’s threat that he will drop another grenade on National just days out from the election, will likely have the effect of pushing the nuclear button on a campaign that was already turning toxic.