Ross vs Bridges

The Herald reports:

Sidelined National MP Jami-Lee Ross has been identified as the person who leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses – but he furiously denies the accusation.

Bridges called a press conference for 1pm and told reporters an inquiry by PwC had concluded Ross was the person who leaked the information.

Bridges said he had also spoken with Ross about his conduct, which showed a pattern of offending.

Bridges called this a “pattern of conduct.”

“The report here, speaks for itself,” he said.

Asked why he does not just sack Ross, Bridges said because it’s about the National Party – that’s why he said he is bringing it before caucus tomorrow.

The National caucus would now discuss Ross’ future with the party tomorrow.

“Suspension is definitely an option,” Bridges said.

Ross, who has taken medical leave from Parliament, had pre-empted Bridges’ press conference, taking to Twitter to say that he would be blamed.

Bridges addressed Ross’ Tweet saying he was not surprised by his reaction due to the circumstances.

He said his allegations were wrong and Ross was “lashing out”.

Bridges insisted his leadership of the party was still strong.

He said he had the full confidence of caucus, saying what the report shows is that was the action of one single Member of Parliament.

Sadly this appears to be the end of Jami-Lee’s political career. His tweets seem to be part of a strategy to burn the village down after him.

The report is here – PWC Investigation Report. The key aspects is that Jami-Lee had text messages or calls with the Speaker, the Radio NZ reporter and the Police around the time of the anonymous messages sent by text. One call to the RNZ reporter was three minutes after Bridges said there would be an inquiry.

PWC say the evidence is not conclusive. There was no e-mail trail of the expenses being sent or printed. But that on balance of probabilities it is Jami-Lee. Ironically if he had not tried to get the inquiry called off, it looks like he would never have been identified. I should note Jami-Lee denies being the leaker.

This is a sad and bad day for National. For a decade or more National has had formidable internal discipline. But this sort of stuff is unforgiveable as it turns the public off big time. It is selfish in the extreme to publicly undermine the elected leader. If you don’t like whom your colleagues choose to be leader, you either put up with it, or you quietly do the numbers to roll them. What you don’t do is leak against them. Labour had nine years of that, and it made them almost unelectable until Jacinda saved them.

I like Jami-Lee. I’ve known him for a long time. He had a good future ahead of him. He had been promoted by Simon to the front bench. He’s a popular local MP. But the party is bigger than any individual, and I can’t see how caucus can take any decision other than to suspend him, just as Labour did with Chris Carter who got caught doing something similar against Phil Goff.

National should not under estimate how much damage disunity does. They need to resolve this issue decisively and quickly.

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