Power Play: Jami-Lee Ross looking to take Simon Bridges down with him

8:17 pm on 15 October 2018

Power Play - The political career of National's MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross is almost certainly over and he's looking to take leader Simon Bridges down with him.

National Party Leader Simon Bridges and former National MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook / Richard Tindiller

Mr Bridges has already been under pressure for his leadership, pressure that will not be alleviated by today's events.

MPs will gather at Parliament tomorrow to decide Mr Ross' fate; Mr Bridges has already put suspension on the table but expulsion from the caucus altogether is a very real possibility.

There could have been a road back for Mr Ross based on the findings of the report alone but his outburst on Twitter, accusing his leader of forcing him out on medical leave and of unlawful behaviour (which Mr Bridges denies), would make it untenable for him to stay in the caucus under the current leadership.

If he is expelled he could be ejected from Parliament altogether under the freshly passed waka jumping legislation; opposed strongly by National. However, that is not automatic as under this version of the law there are several more steps before an MP would lose their seat, including whether their actions had affected the proportionality of Parliament. Any decision would also be subject to judicial review.

If Mr Ross is expelled, or decides to leave of his own volition, that would lead to a by-election in the Botany seat, one he's held since 2011.

The report from PwC was released by the National Party today but still leaves many questions unanswered.

It could not identify the leaker "with certainty", but said the evidence "points to Mr Ross".

The inquiry analysed communications from MPs dating back to February, and those of some National Party staffers for a more limited timeframe.

The inquiry found no links to MPs or any parliamentary staff, concluding if the leaker was a National Party MP, they must have used a SIM card or phone separate to those on the parliamentary system.

When he presented the PwC report, Mr Bridges quoted an accompanying opinion from John Billington QC that the "balance of probabilities" to point the finger at Mr Ross but, citing legal privilege, is refusing to release that opinion.

The most immediate consequence will be the caucus meeting tomorrow where MPs will decide Mr Ross's fate, and the indications from senior MPs are already that he will find little mercy in the caucus room.

MPs are likely to rally around Mr Bridges after such an extraordinary attack on his leadership but once the dust settles there will be further scrutiny of his calling of the inquiry in the first place, and the way he has handled events since then.

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