15 Sep 2020

Election 2020: Jami-Lee Ross not contesting Botany seat

9:40 am on 15 September 2020

Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross has announced he won't be standing in his Botany electorate this election.

No caption

Jami-Lee Ross will not contest the Botany seat. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

He will be on the Advance New Zealand Party list.

The former National MP merged his Advance NZ party with the Public Party in July, in the hope its leader, Billy Te Kahika, will win the seat of Te Tai Tokerau and enter Parliament.

He said Advance NZ was tapping in to "growing voter dissatisfaction with the current main parties" and would be "competitive on October 17".

Ross told RNZ Morning Report's Susie Ferguson the reason was because his party co-leader Billy Te Kahika was on track to win Te Tai Tokerau, and denied it was because of polling showing he was unlikely to win the seat.

"We had to decide which one of us should focus on running the nationwide campaign, which one should focus on the seat. I'm running the nationwide campaign and Billy's gonna win [Te] Tai Tokerau.

"It was looking like a three-way race. The Labour candidate's doing well, the national party's a lot lower than they were in 2017 and I certainly have a profile as the incumbent MP.

"It was a situation where I couldn't focus on running an election campaign in a marginal seat, and also running a nationwide campaign. Billy Te Kahika will be winning Tai Tokerau so that was the best decision in terms of getting our policies and our platform into Parliament this election."

The poll taken in August showing his numbers at 2 percent was not to be believed, he said. Asked if it was wrong, he would not say, but maligned the accuracy of his former party's numbers.

"That is the National Party, you can't believe their misinformation, come on, that's ridiculous ... I'm saying that's the National Party's own personal polling, you can't listen to anything they say. When they go and put all of their internal polls out for everyone to garner, then fine."

Asked what his party's own polling showed however, he did not seem to have an accurate number either and confirmed his party had not done its own polling.

"My poll, having been the MP there for 10 years and knocking on doors was that it was a three-way race between myself, National and the Labour campaign."

Ross has been in Parliament since 2011 when he won the the Botany by-election. He resigned from National in 2018, and said he would stand as an independent in any Botany by-election, after falling out with the party leadership. Ross and three businessmen are to stand trial over two $100,000 donations paid to the National Party - all have pleaded not guilty.

Ross and Te Kahika organised a large rally in Auckland at the weekend protesting at the government's use of lockdowns and other Covid-19 restrictions. Several thousand people packed into Aotea Square with no social distancing and few wearing masks.

Te Kahika has a growing following and has gained traction through the sharing of conspiracy theory videos online.

Ross was confident Te Kahika would win the Te Tai Tokerau seat.

"Te Tai Tokerau wants a voice that will stand up and fight for them, if they vote for Billy Te Kahika they'll still get Kelvin Davis on the list. Also that seat has a history of backing fighters, for half the time we've had MMP they've had a non-Labour MP and they want someone who will fight for them because Kelvin Davis has delivered nothing.

"The reach we're getting on social media is ensuring that New Zealanders are getting out there and listening to an alternative point of view."

He denied that 'alternative point of view' was conspiracy theories, and asserted that the Covid-19 case fatality rate was "nowhere near as high as we were first told".