Paul Henry interviewed Act leader David Seymour this morning about the alleged attempt by Maurice Williamson to jump from National to ACT.
As a result of clarifications Henry stated that Williamson has lied to John Key about having no contact, and Seymour didn’t dispute that assumption.
Williamson has been flayed by ACT (and Henry), and National looks more frayed around the edges.
Where’s Maurice Williamson Going?
Betting site iPredict has opened up stocks for a by-election in Pakuranga, and for incumbent Williamson to be the candidate by 2017. The interesting thing is the opening odds, respectively 30 and 25 percent likely. iPredict’s operators, who have deep political connections, set these odds. Something’s up.
ACT’s Board has unanimously rejected an approach by the hapless Don Brash (no joking, this is too good for us to have made up) for Williamson to join ACT’s caucus. “My own party don’t want me no more” is not an attractive pitch. For similar reasons, what poor country would accept him as ambassador?
Henry’s interview Is National MP Maurice Williamson a waka-jumper?
Henry: Ok the reason we all know about this is that you went public in a newsletter and said that this approach through Don Brash had come to the party and the party said no.
Seymour: Well that’s right we put a tidbit at the end of our newsletter, um and a lot of people seem to have found it very interesting.
Henry: Well because it makes a fool of Maurice Williamson. Was that your intention?
Seymour: Ah no not at all, but what I do know is that you can’t lead a party, try to rebuild a party, and offer a party that voters can confidently vote for, ah when you have this kind of back door swirling stuff going on, so ah we put it out in the open and made it clear this is not how we do politics, ah if we want to expand the ACT caucus and we certainly do, ah we’ll put it to the voters at a general election.
Henry: What you’re doing is something quite unusual in politics, you’re taking the moral high ground, ah and and given the story to date you deserve the moral high ground. However the opposite is true of Maurice Williamson, or as for some reason I’m referring to him as ‘Maurice’ [sort of a French pronunciation]. Seems more appropriate for some reason.
Um for him it’s not the high ground. You must have known by going public with this, that people were going to point the finger at Maurice and say at the very least you are disloyal, this is about you party hopping and causing problems for the National Party.
Seymour: Well bear in mind we’ve just reported the facts of the case, which is that ah Don approached our president, ah and we said no, ah we’ve left it up to them to explain ah where they’re coming from.
They haven’t been prepared to do that, ah which was as we suspected, um but nonetheless I’d rather ah do things out in the open, ah than have innuendo and swirling rumours around the party.
Henry: All right, lets just establish one thing. You understand, and the president of ACT understand that Don Brash was acting for Maurice Williamson, with the clear knowledge the request actually of Maurice Williamson. Is that correct?
Seymour: Well, I’ve known Don for a long time and one thing I know about Don is he’s certainly a very sincere guy, ah so if I was to bet on the character of Don Brash, ah which is very very good, I can’t imagine ah that he woke up and fabricated it, but who knows? Ah Maurice seems to be saying the opposite.
Henry: I agree entirely with what you’re saying there, but did Don Brash make it clear to your um president that he was acting for Maurice Williamson?
Seymour: Yeah that that that’s the assumption for sure.
Henry: But that’s the assumption. Did he make it clear?
Seymour: As far as I’m aware he did, yes.
Henry: All right, in which Maurice Williamson is now lying to John Key.
Seymour: Well certainly, I mean the other thing is that you know ah John did follow up ah and ah call Maurice and had several texts, ah and of course he’s saying there’s been no contact. Um so but that’s look that’s that’s for them to work out, we’re just telling um…
Henry: Ok, hang on, just make sure I’ve got that right because this is an actual fact you’re dealing in now, you’re saying the the ACT president John Thompson has specifically spoken to Maurice Williamson about this.
Seymour: Well he did, he undertook, he said to Don “look Don, sounds a bit crazy to me but you know we’ll give him a call um and John tried to do that, ah then several texts. Ah Maurice never properly returned his call, ah but certainly ah there was some contact.
Henry: Well did they talk to each other or not? Was there actual contact or not?
Seymour: Well what happened is that John called, ah Maurice Maurice said “I can’t talk now, I’ll get back”, um they had a couple of texts back and forth ah and…
Henry: So there was contact.
Seymour: There was contact, that’s right.
Henry: Maurice Williamson is in fact lying to John Key.
Seymour: Well ah that’s up to up to Maurice to ah decide, um but we’re just reporting what’s happened with ACT and saying this is how we play, ah we’re not really interested in party hopping or waka jumping, that’s for others to say what their position is.
It looks like Seymour and ACT have really dumped Williamson into an inextricable position.
This must rule out any chance of Williamson getting back into the National Cabinet – but for Williamson to approach ACT one could assume a return had already been ruled out by John Key, hence seeking some other party opportunity.
I can’t imagine Williamson being happy about this being out in the open. Nor Key.
If it’s true I don’t see how Williamson can continue being a National MP. Resigning from his Pakuranga electorate would seem to be the honourable thing to do. That would mean an interesting by-election.
If Williamson chooses not to budge then it could mean a very awkward two years for National as he may be less loyal and more difficult to deal with than National’s coalition partners.
This looks like more fraying around the edges of National’s third term.
And it indicates a bit of political ruthlessness from Seymour and ACT.