New questions are being asked about National's internal security after revelations of John Key's relationship with controversial Australian strategists Crosby/Textor.
Blog: Hager’s return should make National very afraid
Author Nicky Hager has revealed the relationship between the Australian firm and Mr Key, including details of meeting dates and focus group research. The firm has courted controversy for tactics including push-polling. Co-founder Lynton Crosby was largely credited for former Australian prime minister John Howard's 2001 Tampa campaign.
But the firm is also in high demand both in Australia and Britain after running numerous successful political campaigns.
National used Crosby/Textor before the 2005 campaign but was sensitive about details of the relationship getting out; senior party figures denied using the firm except on an occasional basis, though it later emerged in Hager's book The Hollow Men that they had a more extensive relationship.
In yesterday's Sunday Star-Times, Hager claimed National was paying co-founder Mark Textor about $10,000 a visit and had him conducting monthly focus groups for the party. Mr Key had hired the company shortly after becoming leader, Hager said.
A spokesman for Mr Key said yesterday the party did not comment on its business arrangements. It is understood, however, that the substantive detail of Hager's claims about the relationship are correct. But his possession of such closely held details are likely to rekindle unease about internal security - National has consistently claimed it was the victim of a computer hacker after hundreds of former leader Don Brash's private e-mails fell into Hager's hands.
A police investigation said it could find no evidence of a hacker and Hager said the documents were leaked to him by National Party sources. The latest security breach points to either an electronic leak or a mole within Mr Key's camp but National insiders were adamant yesterday that the leak did not come from within.
National Party chief of staff Wayne Eagleson would not comment on whether Hager's information would spark a fresh review of e-mail and Internet security.
- The Dominion Post
Decide what news you want to receive when it suits you
Keep up with the latest news by making us your homepage
What do the stars have in store for you today?
Test your mind with our puzzles
The Little Things, Dilbert, Tom Scott and others