A failed near megalomaniac grab for power appears to be the real reason that Jami Lee Ross fell out with National Leader Simon Bridges.
POLITIK has learned that Ross sought big rewards for his support for Bridges during the National Party leadership contest in February.
He was Bridges’ numbers man, and along with Todd McClay, he was part of Bridges’ inner circle during the campaign for leadership.
So when Bridges won, he moved to claim his reward.
But what he wanted was so big that there was no way the new leader could satisfy him.
POLITIK has learned from multiple party and caucus sources that Ross wanted to be Shadow Leader of the House; Chief Whip and to sit on the front bench.
Along with those posts he also also wanted to be on the party board and to be in charge of party polling.
In effect, he would have been a quasi-deputy leader with as much power as the leader himself.
Bridges said no and thus appears to have provoked Ross’s campaign against him.
Perhaps Jami-Lee watched too many episodes of (UK) House of Cards. That is about a Chief Whip who feels the new leader didn’t give him a big enough promotion. So he plots to bring the leader down, and does it through a young female reporter he gives exclusives too.
When the leak first happened no-one thought it could possibly be a National MP. But once the inquiry was established, Jami-Lee’s name did start to float around as a suspect. I heard it around a month ago but said it was ridiculous. If anyone was leaking against Bridges, you’d expect it to be someone who either campaigned for another candidate or got demoted in the reshuffle.
Jami-Lee was Bridge’s numbers man in the leadership contest. He got handsomely rewarded by catapulting to the front bench – which caused some dismay with his colleagues. They didn’t think he had done enough to be on the front bench. They saw it as a reward for supporting Bridges.
So that is why the idea of him being the leaker was so difficult to accept. He was doing far better under Bridges than he would be under any other Leader. But it so got around that rather than being grateful for the promotion, he was unhappy he hadn’t been promoted even higher. Also when Bridges announced the inquiry, he was reportedly extremely active going around colleagues trying to convince them it was a bad idea.
So while no one wanted it to be true, and were hoping the inquiry would point elsewhere, I doubt many in caucus were surprised when the inquiry found he was the likely leaker (which he still denies). But considering he has now admitted secretly tape recording conversations with his leader, I doubt he has a single supporter in caucus. In fact they’re probably all wondering if he tape recorded him also. It is hard to think of a greater betrayal of trust than tape recording your colleagues to gain evidence to try and use against them. Again it is like a bad House of Cards episode.
So almost unthinkable he won’t be suspended from caucus today.
Personally if I was in caucus, I’d leave it at that, rather than also ask the party expel him as a member. An expulsion from the party just keeps it in the news for months, as the process is not a quick one. Once he is a de facto independent MP, his news value becomes close to zero. He might resign on his own volition (very lonely being an independent MP who has been suspended) or he might stay on until the election. National isn’t going to try and use the wake jumping law against him, as they campaigned against it so hard. And again if they did, it just keeps the story going for longer.
So my advice is suspend Jami-Lee, and move on. The longer this plays out in public, the more damage it will do to National.
Also I hope that Jami-Lee’s friends support him through this time. I disapprove of what he did, but I know he must be under huge stress with the effective end of his political career. He’s been an elected official since the age of 18. It’s very sad to have come to this.
UPDATE: Jami-Lee has announced his resignation from National and from Parliament. He will fight a by-election as an Independent. He has accused Bridges of corruption over political donations and says he is providing proof to the Police, including a tape recording. It has also been revealed four women had made accusations of harassment from Ross, which is what led to his taking medical leave