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First came the Kim Dotcom video encouraging young people to chant ‘‘F*** John Key''. Then came an effigy of his likeness being burnt and posted online, followed by a billboard defacement campaign and a parody song, which the Electoral Commission has since banned television and radio stations from playing.
''Then comes the book containing baseless allegations.''
Asked in Dunedin about Mr Hager's book, Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment, Mr Key said Mr Hager joined a whole lot of dots that could not be connected.
''There has been a build-up from the left all week until Wednesday. That's when you have people saying: ‘We can't beat National on policy, let's throw muck and see what happens'.''
Mr Key, despite constant questioning, denied any involvement of the National Party, his staff or National Party staff in the deeds alleged in the book.
He constantly attempted to turn around the allegations against the political left.
And while not saying the emails were a work of fiction, Mr Key carefully skirted around the issue, saying he was unlikely to take a serious look at any of the allegations. He was not likely to read the book before the election and his staff had said there was nothing for him to investigate, he said.
Mr Key said he would be happy for any investigation to be undertaken by any agency into the allegations, and when told the Greens wanted a royal commission inquiry, he urged them to pursue such a course.
He again accused Mr Hager of being a left›wing conspiracy theorist and said any actions undertaken by Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater were undertaken solely by Mr Slater and not under the direction of the National Party.
Some of the damning emails published by Mr Hager alleged a conspiracy between National Party staff member Jason Ede and Mr Slater. They suggested Mr Key gave tacit approval if Mr Ede had undertaken trawling through Labour's website after Mr Slater alerted the site was open to public scrutiny.
Mr Key denied to the Otago Daily Times he had any involvement in any of the alleged deeds contained in the book and was particularly annoyed he was said to have made offensive remarks about a West Coast resident.
''That type of speech is not me,'' the Prime Minister said.
Labour Party secretary Tim Barnett said Labour was seeking legal and other advice and would consider the matter at its scheduled New Zealand Council meeting at the weekend in Auckland.
''Meanwhile, we are focusing on running a positive campaign centred on the issues New Zealanders are telling us they care most about - work, home and families,'' he said.
Green Party co›leader Metiria Turei said the party planned to lodge a series of complaints with the police, Parliamentary Service, Inspector-general of Intelligence and Security and the Privacy Commissioner.
Mr Key had degraded New Zealand's democracy, she said.
''The National Government is up to its neck in dirty politics and may have broken the law while smearing opponents. The New Zealand public cannot have any confidence in our democracy until these claims are investigated.''
A police spokesman said any complaint received by police in relation to the book ‘‘will be assessed in line with our normal process''.
''We cannot provide a timeline for how long this may take.''
In contrast to claims in the book National wanted to reduce voter turnout, Mr Key told those attending an Otago Chamber of Commerce function to make sure they urged their friends to vote. He expressed concern voter numbers were falling and were possibly headed to a below 70% turnout from a turnout of more than 90% six elections ago.
Labour MP Grant Robertson asked a series of questions in an emailed statement, one of which asked what involvement Mr Keyor his office had in the release of SIS material to Mr Slater. Mr Key denied any involvement and said all the decisions to release any material were made by the SIS.
And he reiterated he and his team gave no direction to Mr Ede.
University Book Shop general manager Phillippa Duffy said copies of the book sold out within about two hours of arriving yesterday morning. She declined to say how many copies were sold. Another consignment had been ordered, and would be in stock this morning, she said.
- Additional reporting, Eileen Goodwin