More details have been leaked about former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross and his dispute with party leader Simon Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett.
The general consensus is someone in Ross’ camp has leaked the telephone recording to a media outlet to try and destabilise the leadership of Bridges.
Instead, it seems to have strengthened the hand of Bridges as he seems to be trying his best to protect Ross from too much public scrutiny.
The recording has Bridges promising his “100% assurance” he will not divulge details of why Ross was to take medical leave from Parliament.
The incomplete recording features Ross talking to Bridges and Bennett before the Botany MP took medical leave in early October.
During the discussion, the three MPs discuss how to minimise media coverage of Ross’ decision to take medical leave. They also discuss whether to cite medical or family reasons for taking leave.
It is obvious Bridges and Bennett are aware of the allegations about Ross harassing women, something Labour MPs and the left in general are focusing on in their criticism of the handling of the situation.
However, what is also obvious is despite the best efforts of Bridges and Bennett, Ross and his team of supporters decided to go public in an effort to discredit the National Party leadership team and party president Peter Goodfellow.
Bridges also assures Ross he will not discuss the details in any forum of why Ross was absent from Parliament, something the wayward MP did himself, in the end.
Bridges says: “The truth is Jami-Lee we can get through it, and you can get through it, and you can come out the other side if your attitude after the time out is good and positive, and you can be promoted again.”
While Ross is guilty of harassing women MPs, he has done nothing illegal, something many critics are failing to grasp. No charges have been laid against him.
The female MP, the main focus of the speculation and the one who reportedly pushed him mentally to the edge with some nasty text messages, has kept her name away from the public. If speculation is correct, she is dealing with a difficult marriage break up.
MPs spoken to on Monday by NZResources have now firmed up their support for Bridges in light of the new revelations.
Some of those most deeply opposed to Bridges carrying on past the end of the Parliamentary term are now more amenable to giving him a chance to move past the current situation.
Bridges is well behind in popularity behind Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern but National is only three points behind Labour in the latest political polls.
If National can swing some support behind a “compassionate” Bridges, his polling can only improve.
There may be life as leader after December after all for Bridges.
*Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin political commentator.