John Stringer loses defamation case against Colin Craig

Ex-Conservative Party member John Stringer has lost a defamation case against his former party leader Colin Craig, adding to the list of court failures in the aftermath of the attacks on Craig run on the Whale Oil blog.

[1] In July 2015, after the implosion of the Conservative Party, Mr Colin Craig and Mrs Helen Craig said Mr Craig had been the victim of dirty politics as the Party’s former leader. They named three individuals as responsible, including Mr John Stringer, a former Conservative Party Board member. They gave a press conference and published a booklet saying so and distributed it to 1.63 million households in New Zealand. Mr Craig made other public statements saying so. The booklet was moderated, anonymously, by Mr Stephen Taylor. Party officials, Mrs Angela Storr and Mr Kevin Stitt, emailed updates to Conservative Party members about Mr Stringer and Mr Craig’s booklet and legal proceedings.

[2] Mr Stringer sues the five of them for defamation…The defendants fairly characterise their statements as falling broadly into six categories of meanings regarding Mr Stringer, that he: lied or is a liar; engaged in attack politics; coordinated with others to target Mr Craig; seriously breached the Conservative Party’s rules; acted unlawfully (by defaming Mr Craig); and betrayed others. The defendants did publish the statements complained of, most of which were defamatory of Mr Stringer. But, I hold:

(a) Mr and Mrs Craig have qualified privilege for all of their defamatory statements because they were made in response to Mr Stringer’s attacks on them. The force and vigour of their responses were not out of proportion to his, were not made in bad faith and were made for the purpose for which the privilege is accorded. With one exception, Mr and Mrs Craig’s defamatory statements of fact were also true or not materially different from the truth. Their defamatory statements of opinion were their genuine opinions and based on facts that were true or not materially different from the truth.

(b) Mr Taylor knew his moderation of the booklet would encourage its publication and he had the opportunity to influence, significantly, whether the statements were published. So, at law, he also published the defamatory statements. But the defences of qualified privilege for response to attack, truth and honest opinion protect him as they do the Craigs.

(c) Mrs Storr and Mr Stitt’s statements were made in discharge of their duty to communicate with party members and therefore benefit from the defence of qualified privilege of a duty to publish. They were also either true or their honest opinions.

[3] Accordingly, Mr Stringer’s claims all fail….

[10] By early 2015, there were persistent leaks of Board information to the media and, in particular, to Whale Oil, then one of the most read blogs in New Zealand. It is now clear, including by Mr Stringer’s admissions under cross-examination at trial, that Mr Stringer had been feeding information to the Deputy Editor of Whale Oil, Mr Pete Belt, from at least 15 November 2014…

[11] On 28 February 2015, in chairing a Board meeting, Mr Dobbs reminded Board members of their confidentiality obligations. All Board members, including Mr Stringer, re-signed the Party’s Code of Conduct which said, among other things, that “[a]ll media correspondence with regard to The Conservative Party of NZ business must be issued through the Party Leader, President or Press Secretary”.They also all signed a confidentiality agreement …

[12] Despite this, on 5 March 2015, Mr Stringer provided further suggestions to Mr Belt about possible stories regarding the Conservative Party…

Feel free to say you approached me, “but he declined to comment, citing Board confidentialities” but did say there were some widespread concerns over various matters the Party was seeking to resolve as amicably as possible.

In all other respects, cite “A Party member.” (Don’t mention Board as source). Is it better that we chat?

Stringer sent a text to Jordan Williams:

Pathetic jellyfish on Board wouldn’t even agree to release stmnt accepting CCs resignation last night. Done with them. Going nuclear. Time to carpet bomb the Colin Craig cult compound, make sure this clown doesn’t come back …

Getting so drawn into this now; and WO and I are gonna take him on if he goes us legally; wod kinda like opportunity to actually site the folders if at all possible, read the texts. I’m only responding to hearsay and accusations so far.

More from the judgment:

[19] On 21 June 2015, Mr Stringer emailed Mr Watkin at TV3, saying Whale Oil had a “‘nuclear bomb’ re Colin and may disclose this week”

So Stringer, Williams, Pete Belt and Cameron Slater were all involved to various extents at Whale Oil.

[102] It is simply not credible that Mr Stringer did not understand the effect of feeding information to Mr Belt. Mr Stringer was sending emails to Mr Belt about scandalous topics of current interest. Mr Stringer is an experienced political operative. His wife attested to that. 

A person of Mr Stringer’s experience with the media would have expected that the information and allegations he was sending Mr Belt would end up on the Whale Oil blog. I do not believe his protestations to the contrary. Indeed, his email of 26 February 2015 was explicit in asking Mr Belt to “hold off publication” because of a “witch-hunt” due to a previous Whale Oil post. Mr Stringer’s email to Mr Belt of 21 June 2015 said “not for publication yet, lets wait for Magic Hands replies”. And despite Ms Rankin expressing to him her outrage about the Walden report being leaked to Whale Oil, Mr Stringer continued to feed stories to Mr Belt, as he had leaked that report. 

It was entirely foreseeable that providing salacious allegations and confidential information to the Deputy Editor of the Whale Oil blog would result in it ending up on that blog. I consider the evidence establishes Mr Stringer knew full well what he was doing when he emailed Mr Belt. He was providing a stream of leaked information and damaging allegations about Mr Craig for possible publication on the Whale Oil blog, including when he was a member of the Board of the Conservative Party. He was working with Whale Oil to attack and undermine Mr Craig.

[159] If successful, Mr Stringer sought declarations, damages, aggravating damages and, apparently, punitive damages against the defendants, amounting to a total of over $3.5 million dollars. I agree with the point Mr Akel offered in submission, that it is too late for Mr Stringer to put punitive damages under s 28 of the Act in issue, when he failed to do so in his pleading. I also accept Mr Akel’s point that Mr Stringer’s own conduct would be relevant to any damages award if he were successful. He provided a link to, and argued against the booklet, republished the three Party updates on his own blog and even used the term “Judas” as a heading for one of his own cartoons on his blog.And I accept the defendants’ submission that the amounts claimed are divorced from reality. But, as it is, Mr Stringer has not succeeded in any of his claims.

[161] Mr Stringer’s suit was misconceived. I dismiss his claim.

The public accusations against Colin Craig that destroyed the already failed Conservative Party led to a number of defamation trials that have kept courts busy for years.

This all blew up in 2015, driven by Cameron Slater and the Whale Oil blog, with Jordan Williams supplying information he had access to in confidence, Williams deemed the public good justified breaching that confidence, but dirty politics and self interest seemed to be prominent.

The ‘public good’ seemed to be an attempt to destroy the Conservative Party (it succeeded), or to oust Craig as leader and install different leadership.

Slater and Whale Oil also tried to have Auckland mayor Len Brown deposed just after the 2013 election with what amounted to a series of sleazy attacks. Brown served his term and then stood down.

Following a flurry of accusations and counter attack from Craig, Williams went to court and had a big win (awarded 1.27 million by a jury) against Craig, but that has been set aside after legal challenges and appeals, and was finally settled last December: Colin Craig receives apology, compensation from Jordan Williams

A long and bitter court feud between former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and Jordan Williams has been settled, with an apology and compensation from Williams.

In the first High Court case, a jury had found overwhelmingly for Williams and awarded him $1.27 million in damages – a record for defamation awards in New Zealand.

But the Supreme Court found the High Court jury had been materially misdirected and the case should be run again.

“My options are to settle, however much it sticks in the throat, go bankrupt, or incur huge debt to fight on,” said Williams.

“With the comments the appeal judges have made about limits to damages in defamation, no one rational would go for the retrial.”

On Tuesday, Craig sent out a press release saying he’d received a full apology and a payment from Williams, after Williams admitted making false allegations about him.

It means a retrial of a case in which Williams accused Craig of defamation will not go ahead.

“I wish to apologise publicly for the untrue statements I have made about Mr Craig,” the apology from Williams said.

Now John Stringer loses defamation court battle against former Conservative party leader Colin Craig

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has won a legal defamation battle with the party’s ex-board member John Stringer.

During a High Court trial in August 2019, Stringer claimed the booklet – Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas – sent to 1.6m households by Craig and his wife Helen in July 2015, hurt his political aspirations.

He took the Craigs to court for defamation, as well as Stephen Taylor, who moderated the booklet, and party officials Angela Storr and Kevin Stitt, who emailed supporters updates about Stringer and the booklet.

At the trial, Stringer claimed the booklet was designed to defame him “to as wide an audience as possible” and alleged he was involved in a “dirty politics conspiracy”.

Stringer also used Whale Oil in the stoush and afterwards so yeah.

In 2016, Stringer ran for a Christchurch City Council seat in the Papanui ward, but lost to current councillor Mike Davidson.

He claimed members of the public subsequently told him “that Colin Craig stuff” hurt his campaign.

Before the 2017 general election, Stringer was actively considered by NZ First as a potential candidate in South Canterbury’s Rangitata electorate.

However, Stringer said the person organising his candidacy later said the party wanted to withdraw it, “because I was one of those dirty politics brigade fellows”.

In a recently-released judgement on the matter, Justice Matthew Palmer found the Craigs were covered by qualified privilege for their statements as they were made in response to Stringer attacking them.

“The force and vigour of their responses were not out of proportion to his, were not made in bad faith and were made for the purpose for which the privilege is accorded.”

Their statements were factual, with the exception of one, he said.

“Their defamatory statements of opinion were their genuine opinions and based on facts that were true or not materially different from the truth.”

He added that as moderator of the booklet, Taylor was technically the publisher of the defamatory statements when it came to the law.

However, the defence of qualified privilege and truth and honest opinion protected him also.

As it was Storr and Stitt’s duty to communicate with party members, they were also protected.

Justice Palmer dismissed Stringer’s defamation claim, which he said was “misconceived”.

I think there was a lot ‘misconceived’ in the attack on Craig and his counter attack.

Williams must be out of pocket by a substantial amount.

Slater is bankrupt due to multiple defamation failures (he appeared to see defamation as a money making scheme, especially after the original award in Williams’ favour when Slater launched into his own case against Craig.

Craig made now monetary claim against Stringer who was already not in a position to pay anything.

Dirty politics via Whale Oil has been an expensive own goal for a number of people using the blog to attack people.

Judgment: Stringer v Craig [2020] NZHC 644 (3 April 2020)

 

Craig v Stringer defamation

Details of one of the defamation cases related to the Colin Craig fall from grace in the Conservative Party were revealed in court in Christchurch today.

Stuff: Details emerge of defamation case settlement between former Conservative Party members

Details of a confidential defamation settlement between former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and former board member John Stringer have emerged from a High Court hearing in Christchurch.

The hearing heard that as a part of the settlement in January, Stringer was to pay $100,000 to Craig.

The payment was subject to a “means verification process”, which examined his ability to pay and after that process he was not required to pay anything.

The day-long legal argument was held in Christchurch on Monday after Stringer filed an application to have Associate Judge Rob Osborne recall his judgment, set it aside, and strike out the proceedings.

Alternatively, Stringer sought to have the judgment recalled and reworded to reflect the actual financial payment, without having it struck out.

At the settlement conference in late January, the parties agreed Stringer would apologise, retract his statement, and pay an undisclosed sum.

Stringer told the hearing the amount agreed on was $100,000.

Stringer argued on Monday that all the “financial matters” could not be discussed but in the days after the deal, Craig was reported in the media as saying Stringer would pay Craig an undisclosed sum.

After the means verification hearing, which decided nothing should be paid, Craig said Stringer had published on his Facebook page that the case had been “settled for zero”. A print-out of the Facebook entry was produced to the court.

Associate Judge Osborne said: “Publication of the zero settlement was clearly misleading.”

Craig told the hearing: “Disclosure of the zero payment has devalued the settlement to me.”

Stringer said Craig had disclosed part of the text of the letter from him to McGregor, but the full 12-page text only reached him after the settlement conference. It caused the settlement conference to be unacceptable to him.

Craig said he disclosed the part of the letter that he had kept on McGregor’s employment file at the party office, but he did not have the full letter himself. He had sought it from McGregor through a non-party disclosure application, and she eventually provided it.

The judge reserved his decision and said it would take 5-6 weeks for him to issue it.

This is one of a number of defamation cases related to revelations emerging from the Conservative Party. whose secretary resigned two days before the 2014 election.

Jordan Williams won a record award from a jury last year but that was subsequently set aside by the judge.

Result
[112] The parties are to file memoranda by 3.00 pm on Wednesday 26 April 2017 advising whether they consent to the Court substituting its own award of damages for the jury’s award, pursuant to s 33 of the Act. If confirmation is not received by that date that both parties consent to such a course, then I order that the jury’s verdicts be set aside and the proceedings be set down for a retrial on the first available date that is convenient to senior counsel.

I don’t know what has happened in the proceeding since then.

 

Craig attempted a defamation claim against ex Conservative staff member J Stiekma.

[36] The entire claim is therefore struck out pursuant to District Court Rule 15.1
pursuant to the Jam eel principle, and particularly because of the extremely limited
dissemination of the admitted statements and the unlikelihood that they would have
any effect whatsoever on Mr Craig’s reputation.

Craig v Slater tit for tat defamation went to trial in May, with the judge reserving his decision on June 1. There is no judgment on that yet.

Source: http://www.defamationupdate.co.nz/2017

Colin Craig: more court stuff

Auckland High Court daily List – Friday 7 April

NO 5 COURT BEFORE THE HON. JUSTICE TOOGOOD
Ground Floor 9.00am
CIV2015-404-1923
COLIN GRAEME CRAIG v CAMERON JOHN SLATER
(In Person)                                      (B Henry, C Foster)
Application for an order that the case be tried Before a Judge without a jury

Previously:

  • September 2016: a jury awarded Taxpayers’ Union founder Jordan Williams $1.27 million in damages after he sued Mr Craig over comments made at a news conference.
  • December 2016: a copyright lawsuit Mr Craig brought against WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater and Mr Williams over the publication of a poem by Mr Craig was thrown out as “vexatious”.
  • February 2017 a defamation claim by Mr Craig against former party board member John Stringer was settled out of court.

Today from Newshub: Colin Craig suing again

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is involved in another defamation case.

This time he’s suing a former employee for $240,000.

His claim alleges a defamatory publication was posted by Jacqueline Stiekema on a Facebook page and that she made other defamatory publications to a third person.

It will be heard in the District Court rather than the High Court, according to a recent decision by High Court Associate Judge Roger Bell.

If you want to post derogatory comments about Craig please do it somewhere else.

Colin Craig wins defamation case

In contrast to some significant legal losses Colin Craig has had a win in a defamation case against ex-Conservative Party board member John Stringer. The case has been settled out of court prior to a scheduled hearing in March.

1 News: Colin Craig celebrates win in defamation case against former Conservative Party board member

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is celebrating winning a defamation case against a former member of the party’s board, John Stringer.

The High Court in Christchurch yesterday issued a judgement confirming that Mr Craig had been defamed by Mr Stringer.

Mr Stringer was found to have defamed Mr Craig in various statements that alleged Mr Craig had sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel McGregor and one or more other women, and in various statements that alleged Mr Craig had committed business or electoral fraud.

Mr Stringer has retracted his statements, apologised to Mr Craig and settled the matter by payment of a confidential sum.

Mr Craig’s statement said that in 2014 he came under attack from two bloggers, Mr Stringer of CoNZervative Blog and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater.

Both Craig and Stringer have had previous court setbacks in this case.

Slater may now be reviewing his optimistic predictions. He had a major win against Craig when a judge ruled a copyright claim by Craig to be vexatious – see The judgement arrives: Colin Craig cops another one in the chook. Craig is appealing that but he is at real risk there of being seen to be doubling down on vexatiousness.

As well as that there is more to come. Craig is appealing the massive award against him after Jordan Williams one his defamation case.

Also Stringer has a counter claim against Craig for defamation, and Slater also has a claim of defamation against Craig.

NZ Herald: Confidential financial settlement in defamation case between Colin Craig and former Conservative Party board member John Stringer

The former Conservative Party leader sued a board member for defamation. So why is another trial still going ahead?

Stringer confirmed the defamation case against him had been settled, with a confidential financial payment, by consent yesterday.

However, Stringer added his counter-defamation claim against Craig was still going ahead.

He said this is scheduled for June, shortly after another defamation trial between Craig and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

It’s quite possible Craig could be found to have also defamed Stringer in what was an ugly tit for tat public spat.

There seems to be a lot of money and ego involved in all of this.

It will be interesting to see how Whale Oil reports on this settlement.

The decision does not appear to be online yet. Here are previous decisions in the case:

Stringer versus Craig continues

It’s now over a month since Colin Craig announced via a media conference that he would be taking defamation action against Cameron Slater, Jordan Williams and John Stringer. Since then Williams has countered by filing legal action against Craig, but Craig’s legal threats are yet to eventuate.

Stringer has posted at coNZervative on this: 67. Colin Craig’s Panties in a Knot Filed. Behind the Scenes of the Colin Craig Catastrophe (03 Sept 2015)

It is more than 5 weeks on and Colin Craig has still not filed his melodramatic press conference threats to sue me and set the world right. The falsehoods continue. It appalls me, that, knowing what he’s covering up, he continues to allow people to support him, offer him donations, and comment on his various websites when he knows he’s a sinking wreck. What is he going to say to these people when the facts come out in court? As Dylan so rightly opines, “Be nice to the people on the way up, cos you’re gonna meet ’em all comin’ down.”

Stringer complains that Craig has been the one who has defamed through the New Zealand wide distribution of his Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas booklet.

Defamation is the publication of a statement about someone that lowers him or her in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, where no defence (usually truth, opinion, or qualified privilege) is available. Legal minds confirm to me, that Colin has definitely done this to me in spades. His defamation of me exceeds to the power of 100, the very weak case (still not filed in court) he claims against me, where – the worst example being – I possibly hurt his feelings. Probably why he still hasn’t filed and likely won’t.

He also complains that Craig has actively prevented any response from Stringer within the Conservative Party.

I have been blocked from replying to untrue comments on Party and Colin Craig websites and FB pages (does Colin not like balance and free debate?). Critics of Colin are also banned and blocked. Party officials allow he and his wife special rights to formal communication but actively deny my wife and I, the same rights (“One Law For All” and all that?).

Duplicity and hypocrisy.  So, if anything, that aggravates his defamation because it has actively denied me any balancing defence, “no defence is available.”

To that end, after repeated formal requests to three ‘party officials slash Centurion employees’ (now all being sued) for the same rights accorded Colin and Helen more than twice (to communicate their narrative to members) but denied that same right myself, I eventually built my own personal contacts email list, with support from other party members who see through Colin Craig. I began emailing them with a factual summary update on all the issues. Just to set the record straight; get some balance; seek George Washington’s Truth; and obey the Ninth Commandment (Colin).  Maybe I’ll post that Personal Update to Members here some time so readers can be appraised.

Stringer goes on to strongly hint at the nature of some of the ‘inappropriate behaviour’ that Craig has admitted to in general.

Bingo. That Update has generated some interesting correspondence. I am in possession of original documents and copies of documents, perhaps Magically Handed me by concerned people.

He then as good as details actions that, if accurate and unwelcome, don’t reflect well on Craig at all, and in any case would be inappriopriate in a politician/employee relationship. I haven’t seen evidence so I won’t repeat the details here.

If Craig doesn’t follow through with his defamatiion threats then his reputation and the Conservative Party look to be in tatters.

Craig denies electoral errors

In response to accusations of “serious offences, illegal practices and corrupt practices” from his electorate campaign manager Colin Craig has claimed it is just more ‘Dirty Politics’ and untrue.

NZ Herald reports Craig denies election law wrongdoing.

Mr Stringer, who was the campaign manager in East Coast Bays, alleges that Mr Craig committed a number of “serious offences, illegal practices and corrupt practices” under the Electoral Act.

He alleged Mr Craig deliberately omitted invoices and under-reported the costs of publicity material.

Mr Stringer also accused Mr Craig of spending more than the electoral cap in several electorates – in one case by $2000 – and then shuffling the spending into other electorates in his election returns to conceal it.

“He has taken greater amounts from electorates which pushed them over the electoral cap of $25,700 … and allocated lesser costs to other electorates, thereby misleading the Electoral Commission.”

These claims seem minor at the most. Stringer seems to have oversold and scandal and under-delivered.

And unsurprisingly:

Mr Craig dismissed the allegations yesterday, saying it was a continuation of a smear campaign by Mr Stringer, blogger Cameron Slater and lawyer Jordan Williams.

“The claims are not true, and I’d be very happy to talk to the Electoral Commission and answer any questions they have.”

Notably, while Cameron Slater has continued Craig attacks in posts at Whale Oil – an hour before yesterday’s Stringer press conference he posted GUEST POST: COLIN CRAIG – DIRTY POLITICS, WHY SHOULD WE CARE? in which he said:

It shows that even now, after getting it wrong in his booklet, and being told so, Colin Craig still isn’t a details man.  He gets the most basic things wrong.  Even in a small blog post he still manages to make it a dog’s breakfast.

Colin just can’t cope playing politics with the big boys, and now wants to lash out with his money.

I am on record as saying politics is a dirty, despicable game, played by dirty despicable people.

(Only some who play politics are dirty despicable people Cam).

And I love every minute of it.  Colin is a strategist who plays the game himself.  What he can’t cope with is that he was outplayed, and instead of retiring hurt and going back to making money in business, he’s gone all surly and wants to damage me and others.

Colin, by all means, let’s go to court and discuss, item by item, in beautiful detail, what is and what isn’t a lie.   But even then, defamation is a civil action, not a criminal one.   So you might want to stop adding fuel to your own fire by claiming I have acted criminally.   Sounds defamatory to me, just quietly.

Despite strong words like this yesterday, after Slater and Whale Oil being a significant and sometimes breaking source of Stringer claims and cartoons over the past month, Whale Oil has no coverage of Stringer’s claims from yesterday (to date).

This attempt by Stringer looks minor at the most, and most likely a fizzer.

Stringer fighting back – press conference today

Ex Conservative Party board member John Stringer has announced a press conference today. He claims there are “documented new accusations against Colin Craig that now involve a Police investigation” and “serious offences”.

Now launching into investigation by media?

UPDATE: It seems to boil down to this:

New allegations from John Stringer against Colin Craig – lots of them, but basically boils down to filing false info for electoral return.

.@ColinCraigNZ falsified info in at least five electorates and falsified his own return, John Stringer alleges Electoral Act breaches

Craig on underarm politics

Colin Craig has a guest post at (curiously) The Daily Blog – Colin Craig – Dirty Politics, why should we care?

He likens the alleged attacks on him to the infamous underarm cricket incident that New Zealanders have kept reminding Australians about since 1981.

I don’t think the two are similar at all. Australia played within the rules of cricket but their underarm bowl was deemed by many to be outside the spirit if cricket.

Both Craig and his current opponents claim breaches of the rules/laws of defamation.

And I don’t think the New Zealand public will be reminiscing about ‘the underCraig incident’ in 2049.

It is my view that politics matters, just as much, if not more than, sport.

I think more people care about sport than about politics. But the quality of our politics does matter.

Those in politics have a much greater ability to influence, for better or worse, the lives of others. We won’t always agree on the right mix of policies and sometimes when the debate gets heated it might well feel like a finals contest in the World Series. Despite all this, however, we should never stoop to the underarm ball.  We should be better people than that.

Underarm politics is common. It’s always been an integral part of the political game. But Craig’s problem is not about Government or about Parliament. It’s about an internal spat in a party that isn’t in Parliament.

Craig is claiming that the involvement of political blogger Cameron Slater and political activist Jordan Williams with an aim to keep the Conservative Party out of Parliament is dirty.

If he’s correct in his claims, if it was a political hit job to destroy a party then yes, it looks dirty, but that’s yet to be determined.

Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas

My wife and I have just published a booklet “Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas” in which we exposed the actions of 3 individuals in a recent defamatory attack against me. I am not the first to be attacked in this way but if possible I would hope to be the last.

There doesn’t seem to have been much hidden in the Slater/Stringer versus Craig conflict, apart from actual evidence from both sides.

Whether it was defamatory or not is yet to be determined. So far both sides have claimed defamation and legal threats have been made but nothing seems to have happened yet apart from public posturing.

What Happens Next?

I am fortunate enough to be in a financial position to take legal action against the parties that have defamed me. What they have done is not legal and so I will be looking to the courts to rule on the matter as a way to restore my public reputation.

Or not.

One aspect of this is power – in this case Craig’s financial power. Most people couldn’t fund defamation action so don’t attempt to legally threaten them.

Craig is fortunate to be able to finance a court ruling on what is not legal if anything.

It could be argued (and is being argued) that Craig’s actions in trying to deal with this are not helping his public reputation.

What I do know is that I am committed to playing a part in fighting for a better kind of political debate in New Zealand.

Laudable. I’ve been fighting for better political debate for years.

I remain hopeful that our nation can resist the slide into self-serving and cynical manipulation of mainstream media.  I hope instead that we might retain our values of honesty and a fair go.

I agree with those ideals – but it’s fair to point out that Craig has been working the mainstream media since this story broke, including having two controlled media conferences and numerous mainstream media interviews.

And Craig’s nationwide delivery of booklets is an unprecedented media move.

p.s. I wish to acknowledge the importance of Nicky Hagar’s book on Dirty Politics last year. His work in shining light on the practice of attack politics has been an important contribution to improving democracy in New Zealand.

I don’t recall Craig being a big supporter of Hager’s book when it was launched last year.

‘Dirty Politics’ may or may not have made “an important contribution to improving democracy’ – using illegally obtained data to inject a politically targeted book into an election campaign is not an ideal way to do democracy.

Craig appears to be trying to attach his cause to whatever populist thing he can think of. This post works on trying to liken his predicament to cricket and Hager.

But so far Craig doesn’t seem to have got the sporting and political public on his side.

He may be forced into using the courts and taking his chances there.

Oh, and Cameron Slater doesn’t usually resort to tame stuff like dribbling underarmers.

Stringer, Slater throw Bible back at Craig

John Stringer and Cameron Slater continue to jointly fight Colin Craig, throwing some Biblical references back at Craig.

Last Wednesday Colin Craig made two announcements. The first:

The first of the 2 major announcements today is the publication of a booklet that outlines the dirty politics agenda and what they have been up to in recent weeks.

The first false claim is that I have sexually harassed one or more persons. Let me be very clear I have never sexually harassed anybody and claims I have done so are false.

The second false claim being bandied about by the Dirty Politics Brigade is that I have made a pay-out (or pay-outs) to silence supposed “victims”. Again this is nonsense.

Again in a similar vein is the false allegation that I have sent sexually explicit text messages or “SEXT’s” as they are known. Once more this is not true. I have never sent a sexually explicit text message in my life.

The fourth false claim that we highlight in the booklet and that was being spread about by the Dirty Politics crowd was that of another alleged “victim” of sexual harassment.

The second announcement was that Craig would take defamation action against John Stringer, Jordan Williams and Cameron Slater:

The second announcement today is that we will be taking legal action for defamation against the Dirty Politics Brigade. It does not serve this country well to have a group of people who influence public opinion through a web of deceit and media manipulation.

We identify in the booklet 3 key people in the campaign against me. Each of these will be held to account for the lies they have told. Formal claims are being prepared and I expect these persons will have formal letters from my legal team within the next 48 hours.

The booklet distributed by Craig referred to Stringer as:

  • the ‘Judas’ within the Party.

CraigBookletCoverAmongst the claims against Stringer:

Stringer must have therefore thought it a “Godsend” when the allegations of sexual harassment against Craig began to emerge.

Two days later Stringer had a letter from a lawyer published on Whale Oil by Slater that said:

COLIN CRAIG: DEFAMATION ACTION

  1. We act for Colin Craig and have been instructed by him to prepare defamation proceedings against you.

Stringer has returned fire. Today Slater published this cartoon signed by Stringer:

unnamed

The Bible bashers continue to square off.

Both sides seem confident in their righteousness. They can’t all be right.

Legal action via media

There’s been a number of prominent examples of people using legal action in parallel with media campaigns.

This week Colin Craig launched a media blitz before even filing defamation action, and he has continued to work the media as much as he can via follow up interviews and social media promotion.

If his claims against Jordan Williams, John stringer and Cameron Slater hold up then it will have been a nasty campaign against Craig.

But why would Slater in particular make accusations he couldn’t back up knowing that Craig had a history of legal action? Slater has a lot of experience in legal actions so will have been well aware of the risks and what caution was prudent.

And the way Craig has used the media as his main form of attack questions his credibility in some ways. He seems to be more intent on fighting a PR battle using the threat of defamation as one of a number of tools.

It looks more like grandstanding than defending his integrity.

The timing may be influenced by Craig’s obvious ambition to get enough support in the Conservative Party to be reinstated as leader.

Is he playing to the party audience? To some extent that must be his aim.

But when legal action – presuming he follows through with defamation proceedings – is overwhelmed by a media blitz then it appears that legal resolution is not the main aim.

And if it gets to court the public campaigning may be taken into account in making any judgement of possible damages.

Craig has drawn more attention to what has happened and what has allegedly happened than anyone else, and he continues to do this via media.

Even if, despite all the self generated publicity, he manages to get a favourable court decision that will probably take too long for him politically.

He appears to want to be Conservative leader soon and to contest the election in 2017.

Sure if his claims are correct he has reason to feel aggrieved but his political comeback seems to be his primary focus, and legal threats look to be one of a number of means towards an intended end.

This looks very political, so that plus Craig’s media blitz must raise questions about the potential effectiveness of any threatened legal action.

Craig can reasonably be questioned what his priority is, resurrecting his political career or his personal integrity.

Is this legal action via media? Or media action with legal threats thrown in?

(Note to Craig: you have a right of reply)