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Opinion: Don Gone?

Sun 17 Sep 2006 In: Comment

Don Brash is probably doomed as Leader of the Opposition, and his own party appears to have been the architect of its erstwhile leaders demise. The Independent Financial Review broke the story on Wednesday, explaining that Brash's marriage was in trouble, he had taken leave to resolve matters with his second wife, Je Lan, and that he had had an extramarital affair. IFR columnist Tim Donoghue told us that it was rebel National MP Brian Connell who had outed Brash at the caucus meeting in question. Later, the third party turned out to be the Vice Chair of the Business Roundtable, Diane Foreman. I will refrain from weak jokes about intimate relationships being taken too far here. (And why is it that our fledgeling civil unions seem far more resilient than the hapless Leader of the Opposition's marriage? Doesn't this demonstrate the futility of overblown romantic social conservative rhetoric about the magical nature of marriage as a social institution?) So, why is Brash now doomed? He might protest that this is a personal affair, but the problem is, he was the one who decided to indulge the social conservative elements of his party, turning National from the modern pluralist centre-right party that it was during the nineties, to its current ghastly incarnation. Moreover, he did nothing to restrain Judith Collins in her vendetta against David Benson-Pope for alleged past misdeeds that had nothing whatsoever to do with questions of operational competence as a Cabinet Minister. And now, this rampant populism and opportunism has boomeranged to hit National itself on its collective backside. He might survive this, but it might also not be for very long. However, it might have also been one error too much, and retrospect may show that the demise of Brash as Leader of the Opposition began with this. As for replacements, Tim Donoghue at IFR suggests that it might be John Key, which is probably the safest bet. While Bill English might well occupy a high portfolio in any eventual centre-right government, he is unlikely to be fully forgiven for leading National to its worst election defeat in 2002. As for Gerry Brownlee, National's Deputy Leaders do not succeed to the throne, and the last time that happened was twenty years ago, when Bolger toppled MacLay, so forget that scenario. As for Judith Collins, she'd be ideal for a shadow portfolio like Police or Defence, but come on, party leader...??? As if this debacle weren't bad enough, Brash is reportedly trying to fight any leadership challenge. Okay, that would mean internal party ructions and possible threats of lasting mutual antagonisms between party factions. Moreover, if 'senior National MPs' are plotting his demise, this is unlikely to be pretty. However, hopefully, we may be witnessing the death throes of Little Zealand. If I were Helen Clark, though, I'd delay ordering the Chardonnay for celebration drinks before Dr Brash's condition becomes definitively terminal, instead of merely probably so. Recommended: Tim Donoghue: "Caucus Furore Over Brash" Independent Financial Review: 13.09.06: 1-2. Craig Young - 17th September 2006    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 17th September 2006 - 12:00pm

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