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National’s caucus meeting today – nothing to see here

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, October 16th, 2018 - 83 comments
Categories: jacinda ardern, journalism, Judith Collins, labour, Media, national, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, trevor mallard, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

No doubt like everyone else’s feed my twitter yesterday was on fire.  I am not sure I have ever witnessed a situation where a stand up by a major party leader has been sabotaged by an MP from his party using twitter.

But that is what happened yesterday.

And other National MPs are cross.

Judith thinks that Ross should have the book thrown at him.  From Newshub:

Papakura MP Ms Collins has condemned Mr Ross’ actions – while also seeming to take a dig at Mr Bridges’ leadership in the same breath.

“What’s been said today on Twitter is pretty appalling,” she told NZME. “I would not put up with it if I was in his [Mr Bridges’] position.”

She reiterated to Newshub that she “wouldn’t put up with the behaviour at all”.

“My point to Jami-Lee Ross is put up or shut up.”

She said Mr Ross, who she believes to be the leaker, should have come forward sooner to spare every other member of the caucus being subjected to a needless breach of privacy.

The proof against Ross is not pristine.  There is no smoking gun, no confession, no proof that he actually sent the texts to Bridges and the others.  And the “proof” only relates to the subsequent texts, not the original leak.

In fact the one matter that troubles me is that the report is relying on communications from his phone.  Yet there is no proof of a text being sent to Tova O’Brien or someone associated with her.  So presumably a burner phone was used for this purpose but not for other purposes.  How likely is that?

And some of the calls complained of were to Trevor Mallard.  I am sure that he could comment on the nature of the discussions, if they were innocent.  And he has released this statement:

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard today said “I note that Paragraph 37 (o) of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report indicates that Jami-Lee Ross communicated with me on the 23rd August.

Mr Ross only communicated with me following a call that I made to him in the mistaken understanding that he was to be my contact on the leak inquiry while Paula Bennett was on leave. In fact, the contact was the Leader of the Opposition’s Chief of Staff. Mr Ross was not able to take my initial call, and undertook to call me back. I accidentally cut him off and he called back a second time.

I informed the office of the Leader of the Opposition of my error in this matter a few minutes later. I was not approached by either PwC or John Billington QC at any stage.

The statement is either an innocent explanation of Mallard’s role or an example of evil political bastardry or both but it does blow a rather large hole in the inquiry’s conclusions.

I get the impression there is other evidence which results in the conclusion that has been reached.  But it has not been released.

I presume that Bridges will escape his caucus meeting unscathed.  But there is this problem.

Like everyone else on political twitter I wondered what he was referring to.  It is likely that he was referring to the leak to Newshub over the weekend where it was pointed out that Bridges had amended his electoral return to remove donations from some Exclusive Brethren sources.

As Newshub reported yesterday:

Another party insider revealed to Garner Mr Bridges’ election returns were handed in late after amendments were made. Two donations – one of $10,000, another of $14,000 – were initially recorded on Mr Bridges’ own return, but removed and placed on the National Party’s return instead.

The $10,000 donation came from ‘Cathedral Club’. Mr Bridges refused to talk about who that was.  According to blog posts by National-aligned pollster David Farrar and far-right blogger Cameron Slater, Cathedral Club appears to be bimonthly dinner featuring speakers from the political world. Both men imply attendees aren’t meant to reveal the details of conversations that take place at such meetings.

The larger donation came from Cubro Ltd, which Mr Bridges said was a healthcare business in Tauranga. Garner revealed the owners are also members of the Exclusive Brethren, a religious sect who controversially spent more than $1 million of their own money trying to get National elected in 2005. Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men detailed how the National Party worked with the Brethren behind the scenes, while publicly denying it.

Mr Bridges said he didn’t know the company had Brethren links, even though he’s been to the company’s premises.

I wonder why Bridges decided to change his return?  Is the EB link that embarrassing?

I also wondered if Ross was referring to the earlier Donghua Liu incident where Ross took one for the team and said that the Donghua Liu payment was a local donation and not a party donation.  This is so that National did not have to disclose the donation at the time that Maurice Williamson had provided Liu with assistance relating to a police prosecution.

And one further comment, Jacinda Ardern’s response has been magnificent and in keeping with her mantra there should be more kindness in politics.  She has kept out of commenting on National’s problems even though for a fair period of time Bridges was trying to blame Labour for what has happened.  This is in stark contrast to what National would do.  Remember Key’s political monotones on the inner workings of Labour?

All eyes today will be on Jami-Lee Ross’s twitter feed.  And on the decisions reached at National’s caucus meeting this morning.

83 comments on “National’s caucus meeting today – nothing to see here ”

  1. Treetop 1

    Another political party donation cover up. When will parliament learn that the process for declaring donations is not robust enough.

  2. ScottGN 2

    I couldn’t help it, I just had to vote for Gerry on Newshub’s ‘Who should replace Bridges as leader’ poll!

    • Ankerrawshark 2.1

      I voted for bridges on the news hub poll #lets keep Simon. I am delighted that so far the Nat caucus is standing behind him

      • Ross 2.1.1

        Every voter on the Left should be supporting Bridges. I see that Collins has a healthy lead in that poll. Oh dear.

      • greywarshark 2.1.2

        That would be good for a Baron Munchhausen shot. He took out the diamond from his tiepin and shot a whole brace of ducks when he saw they were in a line. Get a brace of Gnats in a line behind Bridges and go for it though I don’t know how many Gnats a fast-travelling diamond would bring down.

  3. Sacha 3

    “Yet there is no proof of a text being sent to Tova O’Brien or someone associated with her. So presumably a burner phone was used for this purpose but not for other purposes. How likely is that?”

    Or he may have used the phone of someone like, for example, his wife. Though you’d think PWC may have been told to check for that as well.

    • Incognito 3.1

      Leave Lucy Schwaner out of it. She’s a straight-up local politician.

      • Visubversa 3.1.1

        Really – didn’t get what she wanted after she was elected – tossed her toys and put the ratepayers to the expense of a by-election 5 minutes later.

    • ScottGN 3.2

      Presumably there was only so far they could reach in their investigations?

  4. Incognito 4

    Very quiet here so far!?

    Both National and some in MSM are framing it as an isolated incident, the actions of “a lone wolf”. I find it impossible to believe that the National Party is holding hands and doing group hugs around Simon’s BBQ and that they all love each other as much as anonymous party donations and capital-free gains. Yeah, right!

    Clean ship and roll Simon, I’d say, but there’s nobody in National with enough guts or backbone let alone vision to do so. A pathetic Opposition is what we have.

    • xanthe 5.1

      sacha, to be fair that link reads like a shill hit job not any sort of journalism , dont really have an impression of jlr yet and that link did not inform me any

      • mickysavage 5.1.1

        David Collings is not a lefty. He was burned by Ross’s actions.

      • Sacha 5.1.2

        Melanie Reid is one of NZ’s best journalists ever. How come you are so touchy about this situation, Xanthe?

        • xanthe 5.1.2.1

          Thats bullying sacha

          • Sacha 5.1.2.1.1

            Eh? I was trying to understand from your 2 comments at that stage why you were reacting that way.

            For example, do you know some of the people or groups involved? or have some valuable local knowledge the rest of us are missing?

      • Ross 5.1.3

        Xanthe

        Yeah it’s a few vague allegations and nothing more. The writers should’ve done more research before going to print but I suspect they thought it was opportune. I would’ve expected better from Melanie Reid.

  5. Ross 6

    “How likely is that?”

    Very likely I would’ve thought. He can then plausibly deny any involvement. The fact he is tweeting like a bird suggests he is not the whiter than white character he is trying to portray.

    Of course there could be two fuckwits in National who enjoy stabbing their leader in the back but what are the odds? 🙂

  6. Sacha 7

    “I wonder why Bridges decided to change his return?”

    Yes, trying to hide the source of donations; to take advantage of the higher non-declarable threshold of the party rather than the individual. For some reason the system regards that change as OK rather than any sign of corruption.

    • Dukeofurl 7.1

      Good point again , Sacha. Wasnt he caught out in a lie on this matter yesterday when asked about the Curries, he said ‘never heard of them’
      Photo came later of him standing with donors when he opened their building!

  7. ScottGN 8

    I think Bridges needs to answer more questions about the gardening leave he sent JLR on a couple of weeks back. Clearly he’s been, at best, economical with the truth about the reasons for that.

  8. Brian Tregaskin 9

    A real upset is in the air, Ross will come out swinging this morning, note all these National Party Aligned Journalists are saying game over for Ross and back to business as usual, well life is not clear cut like that:). Ross is better than that; i predict he is a fighter in the spirit of Peters and Muldoon.
    Go Jami you have my support!

  9. Sanctuary 10

    Long may they sing from the same public hymn book, whilst quietly pointing the finger at each other as the culprit who stole the donations in the collection plate.

  10. Cinny 11

    bridges appears to have been dodgy, ross is calling him out on it, are national party mp’s expected to back their leader no matter what?

  11. dV 12

    Tova should now release the info she has.
    Be interesting if it wasn’t JLR!!!

    Cant still get over that it is about leaking the info that was to become public in 3 day anyway!!!!

    • Ross 12.1

      Does she know who the leaker is?

      And do you honestly think that whoever leaked the info about Bridges’ travel expenses was going to stop at that? Nah it would’ve been drip, drip, drip. So something had to give.

    • Dennis Frank 12.2

      You’re right to remind us of that 3 day interval. Could be evidence of a mental health problem, eh? Irrational to see any point to leaking what would soon be public anyway.

    • bwaghorn 12.3

      If it isn’t jlr all she has do do is say that . And not name her real source.
      If she doesn’t exonerate jlr then my guess is it is him .

  12. Chris T 13

    ” Mr Ross was not able to take my initial call, and undertook to call me back. I accidentally cut him off and he called back a second time.”

    Yeah

  13. ianmac 14

    A remarkable column on Newsroom on the amazing history of JLR!

    A small number of power players in the National Party will be kicking themselves for not having acted before last year’s election on complaints received against MP Jami-Lee Ross for erratic and bullying behaviour.

    The man who was by then their chief whip was the subject of detailed representations to officials who run the party nationally and in Auckland about his crude political methods around his home electorate of Botany, including verbal threats and intimidation….
    One person affected told Newsroom it was clear then that if National Party officials had “acted earlier on what was clearly very serious complaints (intimidation and bullying), they may not be facing this debacle now”.

    In the way of these things, National eyed the general election in September and managed to sweep things under the blue carpet. Ross stood and was re-elected and once Simon Bridges became leader he even moved onto the party’s front bench….

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/10/15/277466/for-jami-lee-ross-the-charge-sheet-is-long?preview=1

    • Chuck 14.1

      “Jami-Lee Ross for erratic and bullying behaviour.”

      Maybe JLR and Meka should team up…

      National need to be decisive today, JLR has decided on a scorched earth policy so let us wait and see. As anyone who has watched Tropic Thunder knows – you never go full retard.

  14. Philj 15

    Is JLR the real deal for National?

  15. cleangreen 16

    Through the grapevine; –

    National spin doctors in hypo drive today; – after they were apparently working on triple time overnight at reportedly a $1000 a minute retainer per member involved in the ‘illegal donation’ cover up..

  16. Dennis Frank 17

    I wondered about that headline when I saw it earlier: National’s caucus meeting today – nothing to see here. Literally true, of course – not televised live.

    MS isn’t alone in seeing the event as non-event, however. Daily Blog is trying to distract everyone with a story about how traditional behaviour in our military is still traditional, as though Hager making an issue out of it is somehow news. The bomber’s sometime propensity for bombing everything National does is conspicuous by its absence. All he could manage was an inconsequential bit yesterday about JLR `going full Trump’.

  17. Dukeofurl 18

    The story in RNZ after the leaker sent the txt to Mallard and Bridges – and nothing was said for some days-is this one on Aug 24 by Jo Moir
    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/364796/exclusive-text-plea-to-call-off-bridges-expense-leak-inquiry

    Sources have told RNZ Mr Bridges and the Speaker Trevor Mallard both received an anonymous text message last week from a person claiming to be responsible for leaking the information to Newshub.

    This was the first tip off to media that a txt from the leaker had been sent and the leaker was suffering from mental health problems.

    This was the connection from Ross to RNZ journalist Jo Moir that has been mentioned and revelaed details of the txt that werent known in public at the time.

    • Sacha 18.1

      “RNZ has since verified the existence of the text and its contents with another source. National MP Judith Collins said Mr Bridges would be making an announcement today. “I fully support him in that,” she said.

      “I think Simon will come out very strong and he’ll deal with it decisively.”

      Yeah nah.

  18. greywarshark 19

    Great image micky

  19. Chris T 20

    Well I think it’s safe to say Bridges won’t be ask Ardern “Does she have confidence in all her ministers?” at Oral question time today

    Lol

    Be funny if he did though

    Arderns comebacks would be gold

    • cleangreen 20.1

      A must watch today Parliament at 2pm for Q+A.

      On RNZ at 1015 today Jamie Lee Ross made ‘serious charges’ and has resigned and said he is marching down to the police station to make a charge against Simon Bridges and provide the evidence including tape recording of illegal donations to national; he will cause a bi-election and stand for an independent..

    • Dennis Frank 21.1

      Not bad. See him treading gingerly between rationale & self-contradiction: “Two of New Zealand’s busiest political pundits, Michelle Boag and Bryce Edwards, suggested on RNZ this morning that Bridges would emerge from all of this stronger. That’s a bizarre argument. Even should everything go as well for him today as possible, the question is not whether he will be left stronger but the extent to which his grip on the leadership is weakened.”

      “Most critically, this rare exhalation of internal division is bound to damage National in the polls. The only thing more awe-inspiring than the National Party’s consistent discipline is the National Party’s consistent polling. Could it be, just possibly, that they’re linked? And were National to fall by two or three or four points or more in the next published polling, National MPs in marginal seats or the grey area of the list will start thinking about their electability. And there is no greater guarantor of instability in a caucus than its members fretting about losing their jobs.”

      To summarise, a unanimous caucus vote will make him seem strong. National dropping a few points in the next poll will have the opposite effect, particularly if there’s a slide in his preferred PM rating. The unanimity of caucus will seem ephemeral in retrospect!

  20. Chris T 22

    Geezes

    Ross is ripping Bridges to bits in his stand up

  21. Rosemary McDonald 23

    I love a good bonfire….

    A musical interlude perhaps,

  22. Carolyn_Nth 24

    Wow! Can’t wait for the movie. Such drama.

    Edit: OMG! Sexual harassment claims. And JLR compares himself to Kavanaugh in the US?

    The plot thickens.

    And JLR will resign from parliament.

    Will stand as independent in Botany.

  23. Fireblade 25

    Simon is history.

    Paula is history.

    The National Party is full of Liars.

    JLR is a heroic whistle Blower.

  24. ankerawshark 26

    Bridges may emerge stronger if his caucus comes out and backs him and this is good for the left. He is basically incompetent and unlikable and the longer he stays the better for labour. I can’t wait to see the next poll…………………no predictions though from me.

    BTW my take on J L Ross is what sort of creep hangs on to a recording of the boss engaging in illegal activity and then only uses it to threaten when he has become “expendable”……………………….to me aside from bullying accusations etc, is real bad.

  25. joe90 27

    JLR on Soimon – a corrupt leader

    edit : he’s burning the house down

  26. mauī 28

    Oh boy!

  27. Brian Tregaskin 29

    Go Jami he is making history we are witnessing a new Muldoon and Peters!
    He has real mana.

    • Dennis Frank 29.1

      If he gets sufficient local support in the by-election. He’s proved your prediction true enough, so far. Very impressive in that speech just now. No uncertainty, not even a momentary lapse of pace, if he continues on that basis he could win.

  28. Dennis Frank 30

    He’s meeting with police tomorrow to deliver his recording of Bridges discussing how to break electoral law. If this was the USA, he’d mysteriously disappear before that meeting, never to be seen again. Wonder if Bridges has called Simon Lusk in yet…

  29. Cinny 31

    jlr is going to the police with a complaint of electoral fraud against bridges.

    He also says there is a second breach, that the public doesn’t know about yet, but he will go public with in once he has laid another complaint with police.

    jlr is implicit that he is not the ‘leaker’

    Dang jlr is telling all, so much to digest.

    jlr seems to loathe and hate simon so very much.

    • cleangreen 31.1

      This tops the Brett Cavenough allegations or the sacking of Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull.

      Shit in NZ we have a real scandal here fit for a movie called “NZ dirty politics” or “A litany of lies”

      • Cinny 31.1.1

        Did ross just figure out how the national party handles donations in the last year?

        He said it was only in the last year that he was privy to such info.

        How many nat mp’s will publicly be anti jlr, until…… the police prosecute. Will the police dig further and discover such things have been happening within national for many many years.

        Wise of jlr to go to media prior to the police.

        Question time at 2pm, will we hear from simon before then?

        Popcorn?

  30. Michael 32

    JLR and Bridges are gone, the former before the latter. JLR won’t win a by-election in Botany but the Nats’ confidence in Bridges must be fatally undermined. Both men will face a Police investigation but may well be cleared, the Police being little more than National Party members decked out in Party colours. I do wonder whether JLR is acting for Crusher (a deus ex machina?) – by bringing down Bridges he clears the way for Crusher to take over the Nats. I bet we’ll hear a lot more about Chinese money and influence in our politics now.

    • cleangreen 32.1

      Michael,

      Yes Jami lee Ross said in his statement that he would hope that a fit Leader would need to be placed to lead national and he said either Collins, Adams, or Mitchell would be o/k.

  31. Dennis Frank 33

    Nothing on Kiwiblog or Whaleoil yet, both still trying to figure out how to positive-spin the thing. Probably be in a funk for hours yet. Perhaps try Caucus united behind strong National leader, dismiss the purported evidence that he conspired to break electoral law as the ravings of a self-confessed madman.

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