The world leader of the Exclusive Brethren made an unpublicised visit to New Zealand last week, arriving on Wednesday, amid strict security, to a large meeting of faithful in Wellington.Now, I'm not really convinced by Hager's claim that the meeting was betrayed by a curious local, who just happened to have Hager's number on speed dial. But that isn't too important.
The secretive Bruce Hales, known to Exclusive Brethren as the Elect Vessel or Mr Bruce, travelled in a black, tinted-window SUV and was screened from media by hired security guards and Brethren volunteers.
Hales' visit, only three or four months before this year's election, is a reminder of the Exclusive Brethren's controversial involvement in the 2005 election. It is unclear yet whether they intend to repeat that in the coming election. (1)
It is an obvious conclusion to jump to, but why would the Elect Vessel choose to visit New Zealand a few months prior to the election? And would they really be naive enough to try some sort of influence again? Well, yes. They aren't the most politically astute bunch - their amateur attacks on the Greens in 2005 showed that. Probably, they assume that their plan unravelled last time because the Almighty willed it. Job is their role model. They must try again.
Hopefully, the electorate is a bit more streetwise than the Exclusive Brethern. They are a lot less likely to take mysterious leaflets at face value.
However, given that the best not ridiculous outcome for Labour at the election is a coalition dependent on the Greens, the Brethern's shenanigans might have an impact - even a couple of percentage points shaved off the Green vote could be crucial. Be wary.
1 - "Brethren leader visits NZ in secrecy," by Nicky Hager in the Sunday Star Times, 20th of July, 2008. Reproduced on