Watkins on the saga

Tracy Watkins writes:

The last week has been like a crazy bull run; MPs and the media ricocheting from one moment of madness to the next as Ross leaked tapes and texts in an attempt to smear Bridges.

Ross failed spectacularly in his first attempts. If anything, the latest tape – where Bridges confronted Ross with allegations of bullying and harassment – did more to show the National leader as an honorable man than an army of spin doctors could manage.

And the text messages before that showed Greg Hamilton to be a very diligent General Secretary. They are almost the opposite of smoking guns.

But Ross won’t stop now; he is remaining in Parliament, precisely so he can continue to wreak havoc under the protection of Parliamentary privilege.

I doubt he will be doing any work for constituents. He won’t be scrutinizing legislation. He won’t be doing policy. He wants to remain funded by the taxpayers so he can use parliamentary privilege to repeat gossip.

There will be no limits – in an interview on Newstalk ZB late Friday, Ross named a female MP as one of the women he had an affair with, and threatened to lift the bedsheets on others.

He named her on air!! Luckily it was bleeped out.

Ross is in a unique position to follow through on his threats to burn the house down. He was one of Simon Bridges’ closest friends in Parliament. He was the party’s senior whip. He knows where the skeletons are buried because it was his job to bury them. He was also the party’s bagman, one of its biggest fundraisers.

He is a man who prizes leverage. He accumulated secret recordings and text messages. He tried to prod his colleagues into bad-mouthing the leader, and many realise with hindsight that he was probably recording them.

And all because he was “only” promoted to No 7.

The texts and recordings released so far by Ross have failed to prove any of his claims of electoral fraud. The reverse, in fact – they exonerate National and Bridges.

But political donations are a murky pool. Some of the mud will stick over his allegations of dodgy donations and big money in politics.

No one knows how many more recordings and texts there are. But having failed at dragging Bridges down, it is clear the next round of releases from Ross will be uglier and even more personal.

I think Bridges is coming out of this stronger now, but National itself is now being damaged. Having failed to get Bridges he now seems to want to destroy the party.

A slow drip feed of scandal with Ross remaining in Parliament is the nightmare scenario for National.

Far better to end things cleanly in Botany, where Bridges would be assured of taking National to a huge win in a by-election.

Bridges could expect a huge sympathy vote for the act of treachery by his MP and former friend. Likewise, there would be a huge backlash against Ross for his ugly and destructive behaviour.

I agree. Use the waka jumping law. Labour campaigned against tax cuts but they didn’t all refuse their tax cuts and hand the money back. National never said that that every use of the waka jumping law would be bad. They said that it was a law that could allow a bad party leader to expel good MPs. And it could. It is why it should not have been passed. But it also allows a good party leader to expel a bad MP. And this is the case they now have. If you have a tool, you use it – if you are using it for the right reason.

National has no good options in dealing with JLR. The question is which is the least bad option.

Of course the best way out would be a truce. If somehow JLR and National can find a way forward that would be a good thing. But the problem is that JLR has so damaged himself I’m genuinely not sure what National can do to reverse the harm he caused himself. But if he has a proposal, then it should be considered.

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