16 Oct 2018

Bridges on caucus support: '55 MPs today say he is wrong'

2:54 pm on 16 October 2018

National Party leader Simon Bridges is adamant the party is united under him after now-ousted member Jami-Lee Ross criticised his leadership.

Mr Bridges has addressed media after Mr Ross stepped forward earlier today with his claims that the leader had broken electoral donation law.

Watch Simon Bridges full stand-up here:

It follows on from yesterday when the party leader said an inquiry into a leak on his expenses identified Mr Ross as the likely culprit.

Mr Ross denied those claims and said Mr Bridges was attempting to use his contact with a local police area commander and a journalist as evidence that he was somehow involved.

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Mr Ross questioned Mr Bridges' leadership and criticised him heavily. He claimed he was not alone, with other members of the party not satisfied, but said they would remain silent.

After a caucus meeting that was being held during Mr Ross' press conference, the party leader announced that by unanimous vote Mr Ross was expelled.

"As the strongest possible action that the caucus can take and that's because we are united, we are strong in the interest of New Zealanders and we are not going to tolerate that kind of appalling behaviour we've seen from Jami-Lee Ross, where he has put himself above both caucus but also New Zealanders," Mr Bridges said.

"Fifty-five MPs today say he is wrong, 55 MPs today won't tolerate anything about Jami-Lee Ross, he is not longer a part of our caucus, he is irrelevant as far as we're concerned.

"I have the unanimous support of my caucus, we have dealt with a lone wolf MP, who has leak, lied, made a number of wild allegations, we're now putting a line on that and moving on."

He said the party would continue to be united and look ahead to the future.

"Jami-Lee Ross is no longer part of National in terms of our caucus going forward and we'll be resolutely strong and united and focused on the things that matter to New Zealand."

However, Mr Ross this morning had already announced he will resign from his seat, step down from the party, and will stand as an independent in any by-election for his Botany seat.

Mr Ross said he once thought Mr Bridges was capable of being Prime Minister, "but now that I see what he's really like it is clear that he's not".

"I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician."

Mr Ross also alleged Mr Bridges asked him to collect a $100,000 donation from a wealthy businessman and was at pains to point out the donation should not be made public. He said the donation was split into smaller amounts below the $15,000 declaration threshold.

Simon Bridges speaks to media flanked by senior National MPs .

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

However, Mr Bridges said Mr Ross' law breach claims were "baseless, false but serious allegations".

"I invite Jami-Lee Ross to take those matters to the police and I invite the police to investigate them fully and promptly, because they have zero chance of success given that they are false," he said. "I hope [police] get on to it very quickly because I have done nothing wrong."

"He is completely wrong, this is now and should be a matter for the police, for him to put up and for them to investigate it. It has zero chance of success because it's wrong.

Mr Bridges said he would not delve into the details of the alleged $100,000 donation and whether he was aware it was made or not.

"Everything that Jami-Lee Ross has been saying, because we are talking about guy who is lying, who is leaking, who is lashing out... I have done absolutely nothing wrong and that will be shown to be the case."

On the other hand, Mr Bridges insisted that he had been compliant of electoral laws.

"I've complied with electoral laws at every single moment, and nothing will come of this," Mr Bridges said.

"We have followed all of the rules here in terms of the National Party and that will be shown."

Mr Bridges said he would not pursue legal action against Mr Ross.

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