The Cuckoo is a European bird best known for its strategy of brood parasitism. It lays its egg in another birds nest, thus dumping the cost of incubation on the unwitting victim. Worse, after hatching, the young cuckoo systematically evicts its competition, thus monopolising the investment of its "parent".
A similar strategy seems to have been pursued by New Zealand's hard-right in cuckooing Don Brash into the National Party leadership. A pair of articles in yesterday's Sunday Star Times revealed how ACT and a cabal of extreme free-market idealogues had backed Brash's bid for power, providing advice, media training, campaign consultants, and even organising a "strike" among National's financial backers to force the change of leadership. The SST is focusing on the schadenfreude angle - from ACT's point of view, the move has backfired, as National has cannibalised ACT's support and funding. But I think the more interesting story is how Brash was advised and assisted by some very old, very familiar faces from the 80's: people like the Business Roundtable, Michael Bassett, Roger Douglas, and Ruth Richardson. Douglas and Bassett provided detailed advice on organising and staging the coup, while Richardson reassured him during the post-coup period and helped him organise a media strategist. BRT member Barry Colman paid for media training, BRT CEO Roger Kerr and vice chair Diane Foreman provided advice and policy recommendations, and BRT chairman Rob McLeod made sure that the money flowed for National after Brash had taken the reins.
During the 90's, Brash was an enthusiastic and vocal defender of extreme neo-liberalism. He shared these people's ideology. Their support for his leadership bid really does call into question how much of his recent move to the center can be taken at face value - and how much of it is just a regurgitation of his predecessor's politics of deceit, a practical example of his belief in a moral obligation to lie.
A second interesting aspect is who is leaking this. The SST says that the documents came from "a National Party source", and there's no real reason to doubt it. While many of the emails could have been sourced from their sender as well as their recipient, that's an awful lot of people, many without clear motivation to reveal their role. That, and the fact that copies of his caucus speeches have also been leaked, points to a National party source - and likely someone fairly senior (they'd have to be, to get their hands on this stuff). This just screams internal sabotage by someone wanting to preserve their chances of becoming Prime Minister in 2008 - which in turn begs the question of why the electorate should vote for National, when people within the party clearly do not want it to win.