8 Jun 2021

Mystery still surrounds Nick Smith resignation

7:06 pm on 8 June 2021

The pressure's still on National leader Judith Collins about exactly what she said to MP Nick Smith, who is retiring after being warned a story about a Parliamentary Service investigation was going to come out.

Nick Smith

Nick Smith resigned after being warned about a media story that hasn't eventuated. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

No such story eventuated, and Collins is yet to confirm or deny whether this was fabricated in an attempt to push the career politician out of Parliament.

"It's a very long bow to draw and I will not be going down that track," she told political reporters this morning.

"As I've said on numerous occasions, I don't discuss any of the conversations I might or might not have with my caucus colleagues."

Smith has not been seen since he announced his retirement last Monday but will return to Parliament on Thursday to deliver his valedictory speech.

"I've rearranged my diary to make sure I'm here for him. We'll obviously want to celebrate his 31-year career with him afterwards."

The scandal over former National Party candidate for Upper Harbour Jake Bezzant has also reignited questions about how National chooses its potential MPs, with the party leadership promising to improve the way candidates are selected.

MPs, including the leader, want changes after allegations Bezzant posted naked pictures of an ex-girlfriend and impersonated her online.

National Party President Peter Goodfellow said he intended to stay on in the role, despite acknowledging problems with candidate selection.

Asked if she had full confidence in Peter Goodfellow this morning, Collins replied: "Yes I do. It's a tough job."

She said a recent review into National's 2020 Election campaign found the party's candidate selection processes needed to be revised.

"I think we need to be looking for people who have the character and the experience that we expect from MPs, and at the same time are representative of the communities.

"I'm very supportive of changes and we'll be taking those to the board, to a constitutional review. I think the meeting is coming up in the next few weeks. That will be one that the party will vote on."

Asked about a series of scandals involving National MPs, including Andrew Falloon and Hamish Walker, Collins disagreed there was a governance issue in the party.

"The fact is is that every party has to relook at the way they operate, like any business or enterprise does, and I'm very pleased that I'm dealing with the issues as they come about. I mean, the issue with Jake Bezzant for instance, I mean, wow who could've imagined that one."

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