Wellington Scoop

Claims, counter-claims, and a rogue MP on the tiles

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The claims and counter-claims at Parliament yesterday afternoon – involving what RNZ is describing this morning as a “rogue MP” – have given a burst of energy to New Zealand’s political journalists.

Jami-Lee Ross, who called a press conference where he branded Simon Bridges a corrupt politician not fit to be Prime Minister – was expelled from the National Party but by then he had already resigned.

In the NZ Herald, Barry Soper compared it to a top-rating TV show:

It was like a script from House of Cards, it had all the ingredients, corruption, secret dinners, a six figure secret party donation, lies and more lies, claims of sexual harassment, bullying, intimidation, threats and fear and the promise of a police probe. Ross was the man standing head and shoulders above his cowering colleagues, they were all too afraid to do what he’d done, even though many of them wanted to. He was their crusader against the tyranny of a megalomaniacal leader, prepared to do anything and stamp out anyone who stood in his way of claiming the ultimate political prize, a prize Ross says he’s ill equipped to lay claim to.

The Herald’s deputy political editor Claire Trevett wrote that Ross had set a bonfire under Bridges’ leadership and National’s chances in 2020. She noted that Bridges failed to discredit Ross’s allegation about a $100,000 donation:

He simply declared claims he had engaged in unlawful or “corrupt” practices were “baseless” and said Ross should obtain a lawyer, a suggestion he might look at defamation action. But he refused to talk about the details of the donation in question, including whether it had happened at all. It was unclear whether that was because he could not talk about it, or simply would not. It beggared belief he had fronted without coming up with an answer to that allegation. Bridges’ appearance left more questions than answers. It may not be Ross’ allegations that hurt Bridges but Bridges’ response.

The DomPost’s political editor Tracy Watkins agreed that Bridges’ position was in danger, saying “sucker punches from his former numbers man” may have dealt his leadership a killer blow:

National is reeling, its wounds laid bare, and Bridges lacks the political capital with voters that otherwise might have allowed him to rise above it. National’s legendary discipline has also been rocked, effectively neutralising its trump card against Labour.

RNZ political editor Jane Patterson wrote that it had been “a day in Parliament unlike any other:”

Even the most long serving of Press Gallery reporters say they’ve seen nothing like the extraordinary political events that exploded at Parliament today. … It was such a bizarre scenario with Mr Ross stepping up to the microphone podium on Parliament’s “black and white” tiles that had earlier been prepared by National Party staff for the leader’s address later that morning. It was the second calculated move by Mr Ross in as many days to pre-empt major media appearances by the party leader, and put Mr Bridges on the back foot. He dropped bombshell after bombshell about claims of breaking electoral law, a smear campaign with allegations against him of harassment, his own battle with mental health, his belief Mr Bridges is a power hungry, corrupt politician, and his intention to stand as an independent in Botany. All of this with National Party MPs two floors up voting to expel him from the caucus – a move that became immediately redundant.

RNZ commentator Dr Bryce Edwards wrote that what was happening was “entertaining but insignificant:”

The extraordinary National Party scandal unfolding before our eyes is undoubtedly high drama. It has it all – leaks, anonymous texts, threats, secret recordings and explosive allegations. At its heart, however, the scandal is empty. It contains nothing of significance for democracy and society. In fact, quite the opposite – it is devoid of any great ideological or policy dispute. Jami-Lee Ross does not appear to have gone to war with leader Simon Bridges over any point of principle…Instead the meltdown has been about personalities, leadership and ambition.

Also on RNZ, David Slack thought about another moment of truth:

A rogue MP is not a new phenomenon, and neither is vaulting ambition and self regard. But the sheer volume of this MP’s Twitter eruption feels novel and maybe this is deleterious to democracy but perhaps you might just see it as a gift social media is making to our world by exposing and exploding rogue elements more swiftly.

And Herald columnist Mike Hosking (an extremist?) branded Ross as a jihadist:

The party that mocked Labour, their leaks and disunity, now in the middle of the most spectacular meltdown any of us who have been watching this stuff can remember. [But] how is it possible you can have a bloke in your ranks this high up the tree, remembering Ross was at seven on the list, and then out of nowhere have him explode like this?… From so far out of left field you literally see none of it coming, you’re so confident that you publicly, deliberately, and clearly and with a fist-pounding assurity declare your party is rock solid, and there are no leaks in your ranks. And yet right next to you is the jihadist, how do you miss that?

And then there was The Civilian, where an anonymous correspondent was talking about an out of body experience. Certainly a plot suitable for another top-rating TV show.

UPDATE: Police receive complaint
UPDATE: Tape recording of conversation released
UPDATE: Chris Finlayson says MP’s behaviour “incredibly sad”
UPDATE: Women accuse MP of harassment, bullying


  1. Kim Dotcom, 17. October 2018, 9:57

    I would like to have a chat with you jamileeross. You may need legal assistance and election support and I’m happy to help. The morally bankrupt now have one goal: To discredit & destroy you. It’s evident in the headlines from the National PR wing today calling you a ‘jihadist’. [via twitter]

  2. Kevin Hague, 17. October 2018, 10:08

    On days like this I’m so glad to no longer be in Parliament. Bryce Edwards is right: this has been entirely about the politics of personality, ambition and power for its own sake. Wouldn’t it be great if this much passion went into the contest of ideas about big issues? [via twitter]

  3. Josie B., 17. October 2018, 10:29

    So emblematic of politicians and it’s why we love them so much – isn’t it?

  4. Ex Mfat, 18. October 2018, 8:04

    The tape has been illuminating. One thing it shows is how easy it would be for the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front operation to buy places in Parliament.

  5. Ellie, 18. October 2018, 17:54


  6. michael, 19. October 2018, 17:59

    Trump politics – how sad NZ has stooped as low as him, I thought we were better.

  7. Henry Filth, 20. October 2018, 5:07

    Whatever would Keith Holyoake or George Chapman have made of all this?