A senior Labour MP is refusing to back off from claims that National is linked to an Exclusive Brethren campaign attacking the Greens and Labour.
The Green Party said yesterday it had discovered five people behind a “smear” leaflet campaign were members of the secretive Exclusive Brethren church.
Author Ngaire Thomas, a former member of the church who has written the book Behind Closed Doors about her time there, today said the Exclusive Brethren had stepped up efforts to get a change of government, and had a lot of money to do it.
The Exclusive Brethren have also taken out newspaper adverts calling for a change of government.
National MPs have said Labour and the Greens should be embarrassed about claims they were behind the campaign and should apologise, but senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard was not contrite.
“I don’t think there is any egg on the face at all,” Mr Mallard said.
“All of us have seen Exclusive Brethren members entering the building over quite a long period of time…and clearly they have not been meeting the Labour Party.”
Mr Mallard said National leader Don Brash might have been kept in the dark about his party’s contacts with the Exclusive Brethren.
“But I don’t believe there has been no contact between the National Party and the Brethren,” Mr Mallard said.
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said she found it strange the Exclusive Brethren has been involved, as she understood the church had a strict rule that it did not get involved in politics and that its members were not even allowed to vote.
But Mrs Thomas today told NZPA the church had been increasing its political efforts.
“Up until the last election all they did was hold lots of prayer meetings to pray the government into power. They’ve always supported a conservative government all over the world but this is the first election where they’ve become quite so vocal about it.”
The Exclusive Brethren had backed the re-election of United States president George W Bush and Australian prime minister John Howard but were now getting involved in getting National into power in New Zealand, she said.
In April the church had taken out two half-page “wake up New Zealand” advertisements in all the major newspapers in New Zealand.
These ads had called for a change of government, and despite Exclusive Brethren being “conscientious objectors” had promoted a stronger defence force.
The church had then done a letterbox drop of leaflets to follow up the ads, encouraging New Zealanders to vote National.
“They don’t vote themselves, of course, but they wanted the country to vote National because they want to increase our defence force,” Mrs Thomas said.
The money on advertisements was a “drop in the bucket” for the Exclusive Brethren.
“They’re a very wealthy group. They can well afford to.”
She could remember as a small child being told to pray for a National government.
The whole group in New Zealand – which the church had estimated at between 10,000 to 12,000 members – would be behind the campaign to get National into power.