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Hager saga - the story so far

A week's always been a long time in politics, but this one must be dragging for National.

Michael Parkin looks back at the week since Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics hit the shelves. Source: 1 NEWS

On Wednesday last week, Nicky Hager dumped his book Dirty Politics like a bomb on the election campaign.

"You are not going to believe what you read and how bloody awful it is," the author said, launching his book.

Using thousands of hacked emails, Mr Hager painted a picture of National Party figures working with right-wing blogger Cameron Slater to smear their political opponents.

Prime Minister John Key initially batted it all away.

"The National Party is doing everything in my opinion above board. It's totally fine," he said on Sunday.

But it wasn't fine, with the PM having to fend off questions about Dirty Politics on a daily basis, his election campaign effectively derailed.

"And that's the problem," says Bryce Edwards, political scientist. "Parties really like to know the scripts, they like to know where everything's coming from. They don't know what's happening here. It's out of control for the politicians."

How was Dirty Politics influencing voter views of the National Party?

Our ONE News Colmar Brunton snap poll found 82% were not much influenced at all.

"There's this real disconnect between how much the media are reporting on this and how much is in the Twittersphere and social media about this and the public interest in it," Mr Edwards says .

Mystery surrounded Mr Hager's source. Blogger Cameron Slater was pointing the finger at Kim Dotcom, but he and Hager said no.

"Absolutely categorically, nothing to do with it. And if it had been I would have said go to someone else," Mr Hager said.

Then on Monday came the first emails from the mystery hacker, via a Twitter account called Whaledump.

"I do think it is vaguely interesting anyway that the dump of these has been put on site established by Kim Dotcom," Mr Key says.

As the flow of Whaledump emails keeps the Prime Minister on the back foot and his embattled Justice Minister Judith Collins under renewed pressure, there's a risk the fast moving story is turning voters off.

"They'll be less inclined to actually participate in politics and we might see a record low voter turnout once again in this election," Mr Edwards says.

And that's something no party in this election campaign wants.

The network of players uncovered in Dirty Politics

At the centre is blogger Cameron Slater, with strong connections to the movers and shakers in the National Party. Even the Prime Minister calls him now and then.

There's businessman and National Party supporter Aaron Bhatnagar, who is alleged to have tipped off Slater about a security flaw in a Labour Party website. Bhatnagar is later appointed to a senior public role by Justice Minister Judith Collins.

Jason Ede, a former senior spin doctor for John Key, was in regular contact with Slater over the Labour database details.

Judith Collins also supplied the blogger with inside information, offering the name, job title and phone numbers of a public servant which Slater used in an online attack.

And now, John Key, who is under scrutiny over whether he knew the Security Intelligence Service was providing Slater with official documents on then Labour leader Phil Goff.