Ian Nelson (left) says Pauline Hanson is "as thick as a brick"

The fury in One Nation circles over Pauline Hanson's puppet-master James Ashby is now white hot, writes Sydney bureau chief and Ashbygate author Ross Jones, who reveals startling new details.

James, James

Hold the ladder steady

James, James

I'm packed tonight, I'm ready

James, James

Hold the ladder steady

I'm a' comin' down to your ar-ar-ar-rms

I'm a' comin' down to your arms

~ James (Hold the Ladder Steady), Sue Thompson

I’ve had that ear-worm since I boarded a Virgin flight out of Brisbane last week. I’d just left a lunch at a café in the southern Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo. My dining companions? Former One Nation president Ian Nelson and a former senior One Nation staffer who will remain nameless until a few little legal issues get sorted out. No big secret, but best left alone for the moment.

As you have seen reported elsewhere in the MSM, James has been treading on a few One Nation toes recently.

Throwing his phone at Margaret Menzel, reprimanding candidates for their Twitter comments, pressuring candidates to buy their campaign materials through his companies, demanding access to diaries:

“The chief of staff of the group (James Ashby) should also be able to see everyone’s diary” ­.

The dissatisfaction has been brewing for a while.

Nelson's email to Ashby is reproduced below:

From: Ian Nelson

Date: Sunday, 28 February 2016 3:20 am

To: James Ashby, Pauline H, Saraya Beric 

Subject: Need to talk sport

You and I need a face to face talk James.

Soon, as we have a problem

Don't you ever speak to anyone about a possible candidate for this party unless you discuss it with the executive.  Do not meet with anyone unless you clear it with me first.  You have been in this party for a very short time.  Respect our Constitution and rules of process please, so if you and  Pauline decide to speak to some person, share with the executive please, no  secrets, declare their name, no secrets please, not in this party, If  you are meeting a potential candidate, include other members of  the executive as per our constitution demands. Please show respect for other members of this party and not the arrogance you and Pauline are currently showing now. I am offended and other members are offended as well.  Need to talk face to face please James, end of story! Don't mind if Pauline is present. We need a please explain as to why you are withholding names that we need to investigate, secret meetings that this executive knew nothing about. If you are meeting with a potential candidate, you need to declare all and sundry to our executive. If you do not understand this process, we all have a serious problem.

Please respond as I am deeply concerned with your behaviour to this point!

Ian J Nelson

QLD President & Director | National Treasurer

What you have not yet seen reported is that Nelson is about to sue James for slander.

James Ashby made the following statement to ABC 7.30 on 22 December 2016:

'He was brought to task by the executive numerous times, once crying and apologising profusely in front of the whole executive for a horrible attack on myself and Pauline.'

The ex-military Nelson runs a motor mechanic business in rural Queensland. Him crying and apologising profusely seems implausible. As for the "horrible attack", when he’s not wound up Nelson describes James as a "maggot".

James Ashby told the Australian Financial Review on 20 December that

'... Mr Nelson was not with One Nation anymore as he was incompetent and couldn't keep up with his executive duties.'

James just accused a Queensland small businessman of being  "incompetent" and unable to "keep up with his executive duties".

Around those parts, them’s fightin’ words and Nelson is about to step into the ring.

Long term Hanson loyalists are currently experiencing an agonising sense of disappointment.

Nelson told IA

“Pauline is as thick as a brick. I didn’t see that side of her until she was affected by Ashby.  She’s a bitch now. She’s as nice as anything as front of the media and people, she’s still saying things that need to be said, but all the loyal people who worked for her for years and years she’s just told them to ‘fuck off, don’t need you now’."

So what is going on between Pauline and James? Svengali? Rasputin?

James had Pauline targeted by about October 2014 when it became an open secret she was about to rejoin One Nation. Around the time her acceptance was ratified at an executive meeting on 29 November 2014, James called Ian Nelson, whose phone number was listed on the party’s web site.

Nelson told IA:

“Ashby rang me and said he would do it on the condition he meet Pauline. He was going to do all of our printing and the corlflutes and flyers at cost. I said that’s pretty generous of you, and I am thinking, wow, that’s really generous. I did not know who James Ashby was, I did not have a clue who he was."

James then convinced Ms Hanson that he and his camera should accompany her during her ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Lockyer.

And the rest is history.

(Ashbygate readers will recognise the modus operandi.)

But what attracted her to the "maggot"?

There is no doubt James is well skilled in the arts of seduction — and not always for sexual ends.

Val Bradford, dowager princess of the Mooloolaba/Beerwah LNP, thought of James as a son. In turn, James told her a pack of lies and betrayed her love to obfuscate his plot against Slipper.

Former Speaker Peter Slipper himself was seduced by the prospect of true friendship ­— a mateship, someone he could trust, share dirty jokes with. Slipper had never been awash with friends.

James stabbed him in the back.

Why?

Malice probably had a bit to do with it, but there was more than a sniff of money in the air. James’ lawyers reportedly dropped $3 million — without apparent recompense.

Now James is facing court costs, which we understand will be around $1 million, for his ultimately-abandoned action against Slipper. That’s James himself, personally.

Pauline is not poor. Apparently she owns a shopping centre, Armidale I think, plus a few other properties. Nelson describes her as "loaded".

But it is unlikely James wants Pauline for her own money. Given the LNP’s involvement in the Slipper matter, you’d have to think James had a cast-iron indemnity for the inevitable consequences.

And that brings us to what a lot of One Nation stalwarts are starting to think — that James is an LNP plant sent, not to destroy One Nation, but to bend it to the LNP’s will.

  • Step 1: Seduce Pauline (easy)
  • Step 2: Isolate Pauline
  • Step 3: Impose control over the party, destroy resistance
  • Step 4: Support LNP on the big things
  • Step 5: Reap rewards

There is more to it of course, it is much more nuanced.

I don’t think Ashby is a plant. I am more inclined to think James (possibly with the help of long-time partner-in-fun Will Hughes) came up with the whole grand idea of seducing Pauline himself. It would be a magnificent challenge and he knew he could pull it off.

James has an exquisite eye for a weak point.

Now James and I

We went to mama

And showed her my diamond ring

She said "my poor little baby, you must be crazy, to think of such a thing"

Ross Jones is the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. 

You can follow Ross Jones on Twitter @RPZJones.

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