Toxic politicking is scarcely unknown in New Zealand. A campaign of dirty tricks was waged against the Rowling Labour Government in 1975 involving sleuths and slanderous advertising. The following year Prime Minister Muldoon used information given him by the Police to blacken Labour's Colin Moyle, a rising opposition star. He then called up more Police files to contradict Moyle's explanations. Muldoon's operating method became public at the time. Ten years later the SIS noticed that Prime Minister Lange was having an affair and told the Chairman of the State Services Commission who kept the secret. But watching and listening in on politicians has precedents.
Now a newer form of political warfare is occurring where the latest technology and private detectives are employed for political advantage and the furtherance of ideology. The strange religious sect, the Brethren, is obsessed with this government, believing it undermines family values and Christian standards as they interpret them. Last election they set out to educate the public with pamphlets. The Labour Party took instant offence. Not at the message; they never discussed it. But at the Brethren, whom they equate with the devil and the Taliban. Many modern Labourites are as devoutly anti-Christian as the Brethren are Christian. Labour's creed of extreme feminism, gay rights, and political correctness is intolerant of old-fashioned Christianity. We have a modern "war of religions" on our hands. Both sides are using whatever it takes to do in the other. Both are obsessed with sex. Since Labour controls the levers of power and spends taxpayers' money, while the Brethren are political amateurs and spend only their own, the cards are stacked financially in Labour's favour.
The National Party looks a bit like spectators at Wimbledon, although daily the Prime Minister desperately tries to implicate Don Brash. Since the Brethren clearly wanted to assist National at the last election and told him of their intention to distribute leaflets, Labour screams guilt by association. It's like the campaigns National used to run against Labour between 1950 and 1984. The line was that because some Labour people then called themselves socialist, and occasional activists were ex-communists, therefore Labourites were all communists, taking orders from the Kremlin. Don Brash is in the unenviable position of being caught between these two rival crusades. Labour's hysteria against the Brethren, and their loathing of Brash who did them big damage in the last election, leads them to believe that he personally orchestrates every ill that befalls them. Even talking to the Brethren is indefensible. Some journalists agree. Nearly every parliamentary day this year, Labour MPs have attacked the Brethren. Helen Clark's latest fund-raising pamphlet invites donors to support either Labour values or Brethren values. In Labour's book no other option exists. In response, Brethren women have taken to sitting in Parliament as silent accusing witnesses, clearly unsettling ministers.
What is so "cancerous and corrosive" of the political rules we are meant to live by is that each of the crusaders seems to be digging dirt on the other. Both want to involve National, albeit from opposite motives. Someone stole Brash's private email correspondence. Part has already been used by a Labour-supporting columnist. What do ministers, or political functionaries in the Beehive, or the company that services parliamentary computers, know about this robbery, I wonder? Labour happily believes Wayne Idour has been a tool of the Brethren, but denies his assertions that Labour are spying as well. Someone appears to have listened in to Brethren phone calls and passed tapes to TV1. The Prime Minister's constant attacks on the Brethren suggest she knows more, and might release it under parliamentary privilege. Where is her information coming from? Who pays for it? And what about the Auditor-General's pending final report on election spending? He has been subjected to colossal pressure. We seem to be edging along a road towards Labour's Eldorado - a carefully monitored world where public servants and taxpayers' money help Labour to stay permanently in office. And when will we see Mr Idour's dirt?
We aren't yet an African dictatorship. The crusaders could pull back. A proper inquiry with an agreed chair and bi-partisan terms of reference might clear some of the toxic waste in today's political atmosphere. Without one there's a very real danger that more information damaging to both sides could emerge. Those who live by the sword often die by it. Neither Labour's, nor the Brethren's religion is any guarantee against it.