Questions over Todd Muller’s leadership bound to rise

Questions over Todd Muller’s leadership bound to rise

Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 10, 2020

Michelle Boag and Michael Woodhouse (RNZ Picture)

The first thing that National Party Leader Todd Muller should have done in the wake of his fellow MP Hamish Walker announcing that he had received emails (from former National Party President Michael Boag) carrying details of 18 (or 19) people in managed isolation facilities was to ask all his Caucus colleagues whether they had received similar emails.

It was only today, four days later, after the matter seemed to become a major embarrassment that he told the media that he had ascertained from his Caucus and confirmed that no one else (except his Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse) had received any ‘similar emails on the subject.’

Mr Walker’s indiscretion of leaking the details to some sections of the media cost him his career. He announced that he would step down from contesting in the forthcoming election on  Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

National Party Todd Muller

Media question parried

Mr Woodhouse admitted today that he had received four unsolicited emails from Mr Boag and that he had informed Mr Muller of these emails on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

And yet, according to a Newstalk ZB report, when a news reporter asked Mr Muller on Wednesday if he had checked with Mr Woodhouse specifically whether he had received the same information from Ms Boag, he said, ‘No.’

“It is very clear from our perspective that there was a conversation that occurred between Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. We are confident from what we can see that the issue here related to Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker.”

He said it was not accurate to say that he did know whether other MPs in National had access to that information.

Woodhouse Statement

Michael Woodhouse issued the following statement today:

“Between June 21 and 25, I received four unsolicited emails from Michelle Boag containing information that, while not the same information that is the subject of the Inquiry led by Michael Heron QC, was similar insofar as it contained patient details. Michelle told me she received this information through her role with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and I was led to believe it was circulating among a number of other health agencies.

“I recognised that the information in those emails was private so I did not share it with anyone else and I subsequently deleted them. I have made contact with (former Solicitor General Michael) Heron to provide details to him in the event that it may be relevant to his Inquiry. If he deems it to be relevant I will cooperate fully with the Inquiry.

“I can confirm that Michelle Boag is not the source of any previous information released by me in relation to the Government’s Covid-19 response.”

Mr Woodhouse told ‘Nine to Noon’ (of RNZ) today that Ms Boag called him on Sunday, June 21, 2020 to tell him that she had information that could be ‘pertinent’ to the Covid-19 response and ‘helpful’ to him.

“I opened that email, realised what it was, realised it was not appropriate for me to have it or use it, and I closed it down,” Mr Woodhouse said.

He said that three more emails were sent after that but he never opened them. He deleted the emails on Monday or Tuesday after he realised she was the source of the leak.

Mr Woodhouse should have informed his Leader of the above but apparently he chose not to do so. This could put his credibility under risk.

Michelle Boag Statement

In a statement published by RNZ, Ms Boag said that her passion for politics for 47 years had put her on a “self-destructive path.”

“This was confirmed for me as I wrote to Michael Heron QC last night to advise him that towards the end of June I had sent several emails to Michael Woodhouse comprising notification of a small number of then new Covid-19 cases. My decisions to share this information were wrong, driven by my distorted view that providing that information would help the National Party to hold the Government to account. In fact it was harmful, not helpful, and it is time that the National Party and I parted ways.

“Since joining the National Party at 18, I have tried, sometimes way too hard, to support the Party in any way I could. After resigning as President following the 2002 General Election, I continued to defend and advocate for the Party in many forums, including accepting invitations to provide political commentary. In none of those forums was I the official representative of the National Party, yet media and political opponents saw my comments as “the National Party” and I in turn felt the need to defend any National Party perspective.

“I have become an unhelpful distraction in the current political environment. I apologise to all those who have been collateral damage in my quest, both inside and outside the Party and I deeply regret my actions,’’ Boag said.

“I hope my resignation will allow the Party to get on with its vital task of setting out its pathway for New Zealand’s future in the upcoming General Election. The governance and direction of New Zealand, its economic stewardship and the wellbeing of all New Zealanders is the most important issue right now.”

Mr Muller must clear the mess before the National Party faces another leadership crisis.

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