Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has once again recalled his professional and personal relationship with his former press secretary.
Rachel MacGregor has gone head to head in the High Court with her former boss, both alleging they have been defamed by the other.
Craig, who is representing himself, said earlier today he was formally withdrawing his claim for damages, having become aware MacGregor could not pay them.
"At the heart" of the case was the "nature of the personal and professional relationship" between the two, he said.
Craig said MacGregor "retrospectively changed her view of the relationship" and her subsequent disclosures did not reflect the real relationship.
"This turned in a media firestorm – this engulfed me and became well published in pretty much every news forum around the country," he said.
It was used against him by others to undermine his leadership of the Conservative Party, Craig added.
MacGregor acted as a press secretary for Craig from 2011 to 2014, picking up the role just three months prior to the general election.
"We developed a very close and affectionate working relationship and a close friendship."
Long hours working on the campaign were confined to work, he said.
There was a lot of do and a very short timeframe to do it in, he said.
MacGregor's evidence would say it was "a ruse or some method to spend some time together – I dispute that", Craig said.
There was an incident on election night 2011 at the Conservative Party office, he said.
"We did kiss, things did progress slightly further than that.
"It will be my evidence I stopped that and I left and went home.
"It was a consensual and regretted incident."
Craig said the hundreds of "positive" exchanges between the pair included cards, letters, emails and texts during their working relationship.
He argues some of this material was "selectively" given to Jordan Williams.
The lead up to the 2014 election, Craig said, was "a very stressful period for those involved in the Conservative Party".
MacGregor demonstrated "erratic behaviour" and lowered the standard of her personal presentation, he said.
Craig said in 2014 he was "ambushed by media" when asked why MacGregor had resigned from her role calling him a "manipulative man".
It would later become known on the same day as the resignation, September 18, that MacGregor lodged a sexual harassment claim with the Human Rights Commission.
The claim was settled out of court, along with a confidentiality agreement.
Craig argues he was defamed on three occasions: by what MacGregor told Williams; a media release made by MacGregor on June 22, 2015; and a tweet on the same day.
MacGregor's lawyers argue she was defamed in four instances: in two media conferences; in a booklet that was delivered to 1.6 million households; and in a letter to party conservatives.
MacGregor is represented in court by Kensington Swan lawyers Hayden Wilson and Linda Clark.
"The scale of the publication of each of the defamatory statements [about MacGregor] is frankly unprecedented," Wilson said.
Wilson said Craig had been selective with the facts when he spoke publicly to paint himself in the "best possible light".
"He had taken the path of pouring fuel on the media fire," he said.
MacGregor's defence to Craig's claims will draw upon honest opinion, qualified common law privilege, truth and defence against attack.
Wilson pointed out Craig had failed to properly file the defence of truth and was relying on arguments such as defence against attack and public interest.
Craig said this was a mistake and asked for it to be amended, which Justice Anne Hinton will rule if Craig can use the claim tomorrow morning.
This afternoon, Craig began retelling his version of what happened from the witness stand and how he had been drawn to politics and needed a media adviser.
He said he enjoyed a close working relationship with MacGregor.
"There was an element of fun and joking around in our friendship," he said.
Craig said he had an autoimmune disorder that caused bones to fuse together, affecting his hips and spine, and MacGregor would sometimes give him massages.
"She could see I was in a lot of pain," he said.
But on a flight between Napier and Auckland Craig claims MacGregor whispered something that shocked him.
Craig claims MacGregor said she wanted to be with him.
"At that point it was like someone had dumped a bucket of cold water over me. I interrupted her immediately at that point.
"'It's not going to happen in this lifetime', which I remembered thinking at the time sounded harsher than I meant it to be."
How did she think it was going to work, he asked himself, adding he would not leave his wife Helen.
The rest of the plane trip MacGregor had been quiet, Craig said.
He added he had been warned by others involved with the party that MacGregor was too fond of him and "regretted" not taking those comments more seriously.
Later she reigned and filed the sexual harassment complaint, which Craig said he learned of the next year.
A confidential settlement was reached in May 2015, but rumours surfaced after.
Former Conservative Party chief executive Christine Rankin told Craig she had heard there was a text in which Craig told MacGregor: "I wish I was lying between your naked legs."
Something he dismissed as "mischief-making nonsense".
Board members were concerned about allegations and Craig stood down to allow for a fair process of investigation, he said.
He said he was "angry" about the scale of the deceit and knew his political reputation was on the line.
"I was subjected to public ridicule and discredited across various forms of media," he said.
"The media onslaught was unrelenting."
Craig said he wanted to "stand up" against the tactics that had been used against him.
He participated in a sauna interview with David Farrier and denied an affair between himself and MacGregor.
The trial, which is set to last two weeks, continues.