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Craig wanted 'cult-like' secrecy: Stringer

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/09/2016

Colin Craig  © Getty images Colin Craig  Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig created a culture of "cult-like confidentiality" in which members were "disciplined, harassed and expelled for daring to criticise him", a former senior party official has told a court.

Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams is suing Mr Craig for defamation over comments Mr Craig made in a widely distributed leaflet and at a press conference in July, 2015.

Mr Williams' says Mr Craig claimed he had spread lies and fabricated documents explaining the reasons behind the sudden resignation of Mr Craig's press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, before the 2014 national election as part of a strategy to throw him out as leader of the party.

On Monday, former party board member John Stringer - who is embroiled in a separate legal case with Mr Craig - told the High Court at Auckland there had never been any strategy.

"It was all in his head," he said.

The members of the party had turned on Mr Craig because they had lost confidence over rumours of impropriety, he said.

"I was stunned the leader of a conservative movement was writing secret letters to his press secretary ... While telling us she was obsessed with him and nothing was going on."

He said Craig had created a culture of "cult-like confidentiality" in which people were "disciplined, harassed and expelled for daring to criticise him".

The party had "descended into acrimony, suspicion and paranoia," Mr Stringer said.

Mr Williams last week told the court Ms MacGregor had complained to him of sexual harassment by Mr Craig and said he had sent her romantic poems, letters and inappropriate text messages, including one that read: "I slept well because I dreamed I was between your naked legs".

He said concern for Ms MacGregor and anger at Mr Craig's "hypocrisy" had led him to tell senior party members.

But he later admitted he had never actually seen the text himself, and that it didn't include the word "naked" and actually said "on your legs".

Mr Stringer told the court Mr Williams had told him about the "sex texts" in an "emotional" phone call and claimed he had heard Mr Craig had "forced her onto the bed or something" - but said the latter was only a vague reference to some kind of inappropriate exchange between Ms MacGregor and Mr Craig.

Former Conservative Party chief Christine Rankin told the court Mr Craig had admitted he and Ms MacGregor had kissed on election night 2011, but that it was consensual.

The case, in its second week, continues.

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