You could not make this up. Fifty-three days after stabbing Simon Bridges in the back, and fifty-three days out from 5 September when voting starts in the general election, Todd Muller resigns and is replaced by Judith Collins as National Party Leader. Amid the media focus on personalities, the real story is about how a National Party racist operation backfired to make a monkey of Muller and put him under intolerable pressure.
Hamish Walker, National MP for Clutha-Southland, issued a press release on 2 July that claimed that 11,000 people arriving from overseas could be quarantined in the South Island. “These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.” Labour’s Megan Woods rightly condemned the press release as scaremongering and racist.
Walker was not acting alone. Michelle Boag, a National Party stalwart and media go-to person for pro-National commentary, used her position as acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust to obtain from the Ministry of Health confidential information, including names, addresses and locations, on the then 18 Covid-19 cases being held in quarantine or managed isolation. Boag emailed the information to Walker who on-leaked it to the media, including RNZ, expecting that they would run with the Asian names and fuel the racist campaign. Also in on the act was Michael Woodhouse, National’s health spokesperson, who also received the confidential information from Boag. The media outlets sensibly, from a legal view, did not publish the confidential information, but RNZ reported on 4 July that it had been leaked information on the 18 cases.
Muller seized on the leak to attack the Ardern government. He told RNZ the breach of confidentiality was “quite staggering, it talks to a government that’s slipping off the side of a cliff, in terms of managing this issue, the border, the information pertaining to it”… . “If they can’t manage personal information, bluntly, they can’t manage the border and they can’t manage the country.”… . “These guys need to step aside and let a competent government take over.”
It is possible that Muller did not know that it was his own people who obtained and leaked the confidential information. Bear in mind, though, that Woodhouse received the information from Boag on 21 June and over subsequent days. Yet knowing Boag as the leaker he dishonestly told RNZ on 4 July that the leak was another failing by the government, showing that it was not capable of managing the Covid-19 crisis. He said, “This is unconscionable and unacceptable that those suffering from the incredibly dangerous virus now have to suffer further with their private details being leaked.” In view of his dishonesty Judith Collins has had no choice but to demote Woodhouse, something that Muller failed to do.
National’s backfired racist operation has claimed four scalps: Walker’s parliamentary candidacy, Boag’s web of positions in public life, Muller’s leadership and Woodhouse’s health spokesperson role. Good riddance, National Party racist scumbags.