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19/10/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
National’s soap opera grows
By Dene Mackenzie

The chances of Simon Bridges remaining as leader of the National Party are diminishing with each new revelation from former colleague Jami-Lee Ross.

Ross released a recording of a conversation he had with his former boss where Bridges makes disparaging remarks against Chris Finlayson, one of New Zealand’s most successful Treaty of Waitangi ministers.

Not content with wanting rid of Finlayson, who will now retire in December, Bridges got stuck into former speaker David Carter, a man he asked to stay on to provide mentoring advice.

Also in the gun was West Coast-based list MP Maureen Pugh who he described as “fucking useless”. In return, the mother of Pugh phoned a New Zealand breakfast show and gave Bridges a serve in return.

New Zealand politics has turned into a soap opera, dwarfing even the most outrageous behaviour seen across the Tasman recently where Barnaby Joyce dumped his wife for his girlfriend and new baby. Oh, but for a while Joyce was a Kiwi.

There are no major funding questions for Bridges to answer, unless Ross has another recording to drop soon.

On top of all this, Newsroom reported on Thursday four women had made claims of Ross grooming them for sex, describing him as not particularly hot or good looking. If these claims can be proved, Ross is in serious danger of having charges levelled against him in court.

Bridges has issued apologies all around but the women in National are not happy with his criticism of Pugh, calling her their friend. There are strong women in National. Judith Collins, Amy Adams, Maggie Barry and others have been vocal in this mess in which the party has found itself.

Those spoken to by NZResources are now quietly preparing to dump Bridges. He has lost faith of the Indian community, who he has called less worthwhile than Chinese benefactors.

It is a mess, one a former Crown prosecutor should not have made. Bridges does not even understand how his own party makes candidate selections, an unforgivable sin in the eyes of party members who pride themselves in their independence.

Former prime ministers Sir John Key and Sir Bill English must wonder where their party has gone.

When Helen Clark stepped down suddenly as leader of Labour, the party went to hell in a hand-basket.

National has followed suit. A strong leader is what National needs. No one yet springs to mind, but it must happen before Christmas if the party has any chance of returning to power in 2020. So far, the chances of that happening are slim to zero.

*Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin political commentator.

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