The Labour Party leadership race has been hit by its own version of Dirty Politics.
3 News has obtained an email showing MP Stuart Nash wanted to set up a rival party with help from a key figure in Nicky Hager's book.
Mr Nash is denying the threat of the email forced him to quit the race.
"That is simply not true. I have never been blackmailed into standing down," he says.
The email links Mr Nash to Simon Lusk, a notorious right-wing political operative, who usually works with National, is a close ally of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and a key figure in Mr Hager's book, Dirty Politics.
Mr Lusk's name is poison in Labour circles. It would have wrecked any chance Mr Nash had at becoming leader.
"I have never been blackmailed by anyone within Labour at all," Mr Nash says.
The email, from 18 months ago, shows Mr Nash's Napier campaign manager, Rob Johnson, complaining that: "You had two friends of yours commission a report from Simon Lusk to the tune of 10 grand as to whether you could gain more influence by establishing your own political party in competition with Labour."
However Mr Nash said he is "Labour to the core".
In his email, a furious Mr Johnson calls Mr Lusk an "enemy strategist" and Mr Nash "reckless" and "naive".
He warns Mr Nash if Mr Lusk's involvement gets back to certain members of Labour, his entire campaign and career could be torpedoed.
Mr Lusk says he does not disclose his clients.
"Although in this case I will make an exception and say Stuart Nash has not paid me."
Mr Lusk was paid by "Troy" and "Ned". 3 News can confirm Troy is Troy Bowker, former Hawke's Bay boy-turned-multi-millionaire Wellington investor, who knows Prime Minister John Key from the London investment banking scene.
Mr Bowker said today a group of business contacts wanted to set up a centre party, but Mr Lusk's report said "it wasn't viable" - and Nash said "no".
Mr Nash says Mr Johnson got the wrong end of the stick with the initial email and calmed down after it was explained, staying on to help him win Napier at the election.
But Mr Johnson's email had already been passed on within Labour.
Mr Nash was called by acting leader David Parker on Sunday and officially pulled out of the leadership race the same day. It seems inevitable that if he pushed on, it would have been used against him.
source: newshub archive