For now, the petrol tax will have to wait.
For the next foreseeable news-cycles, the National Party is doomed to ward off rumours of caucus discontent, questions about the quality of Simon Bridges’ leadership, and—following Jami-Lee Ross’ extraordinary four-tweet early afternoon outburst—the existence of a recording of Bridges allegedly discussing “unlawful activity” Ross says is in his possession.
The latest turn of events comes after months of speculation surrounding the identity of the leaker of National leader Simon Bridges’ travel expenses to the media. Jami-Lee Ross, National MP for Botany, later stepped down from Parliament for what Bridges termed an “embarrassing” personal health issue, prompting speculation that he was the leaker. The report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, released today, found that, indeed, "the evidence we have identified points to Mr Ross", a finding Ross has furiously denied.
Here is how an extraordinary day in National Party politics unfolded.
The day began inauspiciously for National leader Simon Bridges, when he was confronted with further leaks on Newshub’s AM Show. Host Duncan Garner said it was proof that people in National “want you gone”. “It's not the truth," said Bridges. "The reality is I've got an incredibly strong caucus that is behind [me], we're working hard, we're holding the Government to account.
Bridges had a scheduled media stand-up at 1PM to reveal the findings of the report, but he was beaten spectacularly to the punch by a pissed-off Jami-Lee Ross, who minutes before launched the following pre-emptive fusillade against his leader:
As New Zealand Twitter descended into a kind of Bacchanalian frenzy, Bridges fronted the media. He called Ross’ behaviour a “pattern of conduct”, and characterised the above tweets as “lashing out”.
"I can do no better than say that I accept the finding of the report," Bridges said. He told reporters he would discuss Ross’ future with the National Party caucus tomorrow, but would not sack him immediately as it was a matter for the party to decide. “Suspension is definitely an option,” he said.