Topic: Politics

By-election ahead following explosive day for National

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Auckland
  • Wellington

Māori MP Jami-Lee Ross is to resign from the National Party, stand as an independent MP in his Botany electorate and will also lay complaints with police against his former leader Simon Bridges for allegedly breaching electoral laws.

In his first media appearance since the PWC report release, Ross alleges Bridges filed false returns and received a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman in May.

But Bridges denies the allegations of corruption and unlawful activity calling Ross’ claims "baseless" and "entirely false".

“In relationship to the electoral act they are entirely false and I invite Jami-Lee Ross to take those matters to the police."

Ross says Bridges asked him to collect this donation and split the payment into smaller chunks from other donors to disguise the funds, and that he has a recording to confirm this which he will hand over to police.

“He was at pains to tell me that the public could not find out and could I ensure this. I was naïve and acted on my leader’s instructions.”

Ross denies leaking Bridges' crown vehicle expenses but admits to leaking anonymous text messages received by Bridges and party members to the media in an attempt to stop him from pursuing an inquiry.

"I believe [Bridges] is dishonest, has poor political judgement and management and I don't believe he is fit to be prime minister."

National MPs put on a united front backing Bridges this morning.

Alfred Ngaro says he supports Bridges “100 percent.”

Harete Hipango says “I have every confidence in the decision that we make as a caucus and have confidence in our leader.”

Todd Muller says “I think [Bridges] has managed a very complex and sensitive issue very well.”

But Ross says many National MPs feel otherwise. "Many people in the National Party share my views but they’re all too concerned to speak publicly - look what’s happened to me."

Shortly after Ross fronted media National’s caucus announced it voted unanimously to expel Ross from the party.

Some MPs calling Ross “rogue” and his behaviour “disappointing” after his outburst on Twitter targeting Bridges yesterday.

Melissa Lee told media "We're a strong team and someone decided that they're not part of that team."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Labour caucus remained tight-lipped on the issue. A distraction well needed perhaps following their own MP scandals surrounding Meka Whaitiri.

NZ First leader Winston Peters let the Mike Curb Congregation’s song “Burning Bridges” speak to the issue, playing the tune for media before Question Time.

Ross's expulsion reduces National’s caucus to seven Māori MPs, leaving Bridges and his Deputy Paula Bennett the only two Māori in the party’s top 35.

National, Labour and Mr Ross now look towards a by-election.