Poor Matthew Hooton; he really does try hard. As news broke of the Brethren story I mentioned below, Matthew found himself on National Radio (sorry, Radio New Zealand National) slugging it out with Kathryn Ryan and Laila Harre (podcast). It's a regular gig but this morning's topic was a little more up-close and personal than usual.
Matthew, to his discomfort, was in the National Party campaign team at just the same time as the Brethren were going about their sinister business with Dr Brash and Mr Key. He is a key figure in The Hollow Men. He was responsible for a lot of policy and strategy ideas, some of them very good; somewhat unfairly, in one of the notorious emails, a superior describes him as an idiot. Yet still, he feigns a certain detachment from the issues. Take, for example, this article from the Sunday Star Times. You would never know that he was in the office from which these emails were supposedly stolen.
This morning, Matthew found himself batting for the Brethren. Of course, he said repeatedly, it was just seven individual members, not the church hierarchy, who were responsible for the leaflets that attacked the Greens, (those leaflets which Don Brash and others in National's own hierarchy knew all about, all along). It was just a coincidence that similar random acts of electioneering were breaking out in various Australian states. Matthew tried to make this claim continually, inserting it awkwardly into otherwise syntactically pure sentences. He tried to say it often enough that it would be accepted. He failed. Laila Harre made mincemeat of him.
Poor Matthew is one of several who have taken on the task of trying to divert attention from the real issues in the Hollow Men. The first tactic they used was to express grave concern about the emails supposedly having been stolen. Mr Key and Mr English tried this themselves in their interviews with Ian Wishart, who handed them the question on a silver platter: "...there seems to be a growing suspicion that there was no leak out of National, but instead somebody hacked into the Parliamentary servers and stole your emails. What are your views on that?" Of course, in replying, Mr Key and Mr English both expressed grave concern. So did certain opinion writers in sundry papers. It was a matter of grave concern that the emails had been released from captivity. The content of those emails, not just about the Brethren but Maxim and a whole gang of nasties, was ignored.
Now the tactic seems to have changed to one of serious worries about religious persecution. This government, you see, is oppressing a religious minority. They said so themselves but others are saying so as well. Matthew is concerned that the Prime Minister should dictate who is involved in politics, although he is equally worried that the Brethren should be smeared by the actions of a few members.
Poor Matthew; it is all very confusing and he is very confused. What can you say, when the Elect Vessel himself has expressed regret and his Spokesman cannot put enough spin on the issue to make it fly away? Matthew admitted that "there were issues around transparency" but these are just about putting an address on a leaflet; he has no apparent concern about the truckloads of money that went Nationals' way and he is not interested in how it was used: $1.2 Million would buy a lot of leaflets. He has no concern either about the contents of the package that a senior member of the Brethren arranged to hand to Dr Brash. Perhaps he should be, because it does not look as if the Brethren are going to go away.