Written By: - Date published: 8:17 am, October 17th, 2018 - 380 comments
Categories: labour, national, paula bennett, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: jami-lee ross, yikon zhang
The theory of nuclear deterrence is that if both sides have nuclear weapons neither side will ever use them, because all that would cause is the other side to respond in kind.
There is an equivalent theory in politics, that you leave other MPs personal lives out of arguments because otherwise you could be subject to a comparable response. There are far too many skeletons in far too many political closets for this to be a viable option.
Yesterday that theory was well and truly trashed.
It was a remarkable day.
Far too much excitement for one day …
— Greg Presland (@GregPresland) October 15, 2018
The two stand ups that occurred were starkly different.
Jami-Lee Ross was coherent and direct.
By contrast Simon Bridges was evasive, refused to answer direct questions and clearly left the reporters with a sense that he was not being open about what had happened.
Bridges’ comment that he will not talk about donations is quickly running out of credibility. He is using John Key’s old tactic of repeating the same thing again and again but he does not have Key’s brashness and ability to tough things out.
Then Paula Bennett pushed the nuclear button. From Derek Chang at the Herald:
National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett says the issues raised with Jami-Lee Ross had nothing to do with harassment, but were about inappropriate behaviour from Ross as a “married Member of Parliament”.
She is vehemently denying Ross’ claim the leadership team accused him of harassing women.
Ross told reporters this morning he was marched into National leader Simon Bridges’ office about three weeks ago and told of four independent accusations of harassment from women.
He said he was to be stripped of his portfolios and dumped on the backbenches, and when he tried to find out more information about the allegations, Bridges threatened him.
“I asked for details. I was not given any … He told me if I kept asking for natural justice, that it would not be just four women. It would be 15 women.”
Bennett said the leadership team raised issues with Ross – but it wasn’t about harassment.
“At no point was the matter of sexual harassment ever put to Jami-Lee Ross,” Bennett told the Herald.
“What was put to him was inappropriate behaviour that is unacceptable from a married Member of Parliament.”
I don’t know what Bennett hoped to achieve. The release appears to have enraged Ross and made him more determined to do something.
And today he is expected to pay a visit to the local police and complain that Simon Bridges has broken electoral law by arranging for a split donation to get it under the threshold.
The allegation is that a wealthy donor, Yikun Zhang, offered a donation of $100,000, and that Bridges and Ross arranged for it to be repackaged so that it did not have to be disclosed. And this is going to give this story legs. Yikun Zhang was proposed by National for and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit recently. And this twitter feed explores his possible connection with the Chinese Communist Party.
David Fisher at the Herald has the details:
Ross – in an extraordinary press conference – said: “On the 14th of May this year I attended a dinner with Simon Bridges at the home of a wealthy Chinese businessman.”
He later named Zhang and then tweeted pictures of Bridges and Zhang at the dinner.
Ross said Bridges rang the following week, having been at a fundraiser for National list MP Paul Goldsmith, who lives in the Epsom electorate which includes Zhang’s home.
“He was excited because he was offered a $100,000 donation from the same wealthy Chinese businessman.
“Simon asked me to collect this donation. He was at pains to point out the donation should not be made public and could I ensure this.”
Ross said he did as Bridges asked, splitting the money into chunks smaller than the $15,000 limit at which donations had to be declared.
“The full $100,000 donation has not been disclosed to the Electoral Commission.”
Ross said he recorded a conversation with Bridges on June 20 during which the donation was discussed. The Botany MP said he asked – in the recording – what Bridges wanted done with the money.
Ross said he later told a party manager to raise concerns if he believed electoral law had not been complied with.
Bridges denied any breach of the law and accused Ross of lashing out after being exposed as the likely source of an information leak to the media.
National’s leadership must be wondering what next. In the past it was extraordinarily good at moving MPs on. But not this time.
And Labour is sitting back and doing nothing. And quietly grinning.
Today promises to be another interesting day.
MOVE TO THE MORAL HIGH GROUND AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN. https://t.co/EKsxGA9erj
— Giovanni Tiso (@gtiso) October 15, 2018