National has kicked "lone wolf" Jami-Lee Ross out of the party for his "appalling behaviour" – and says it would welcome a police inquiry into "baseless" corruption allegations.
Leader Simon Bridges said the party wanted to draw a line under the leak episode and be a united caucus going forward.
Bridges said Ross was "lying, leaking" and "lashing out" and has welcomed police investigating the rogue MP's claims about donations to National.
He rejected Ross calling him a "corrupt" politician who was not fit to be prime minister.
Ross' expulsion from the party is a moot point given he quit the National Party today and plans to contest a Botany byelection as an independent candidate.
But Bridges said 55 MPs voted today to expel Ross - dispelling his contention that other MPs were dissatisfied with Bridges' leadership.
"The 55 people who know about this the most and the best have decided this is the right thing to do. It's the strongest possible action the caucus can take, and it's because we are united."
Bridges said Ross's allegation of corruption involving donations to the party were "baseless".
"They are entirely false and I invite Jami-Lee Ross to take them to police."
He invited police to investigate the allegations and was confident they would find no wrongdoing.
"It has zero chance of success, because it is wrong."
Bridges wouldn't say if he knew the Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun and the $100,000 donation, as it was now up to police to investigate.
The National leader repeatedly declined to answer questions about specific electoral donations.
"This is a matter where Jami-Lee Ross has made baseless, false but serious allegations. He should take them to police ... the outcome will be clear and that is I've done nothing wrong."
Bridges described Ross as a "lone wolf".
He did not want to elaborate on what he previously said was a "pattern of behaviour" from Ross. "We've expelled him from caucus and I'm moving on."
He called Ross' behaviour "appalling".
Bridges would not address Ross' claim that internal polling had Bridges' favourability rating at -27.
He said he would not waste his time when asked about whether he would take legal action against Ross.
Electoral Commission on donations
An Electoral Commission spokesperson says: "The Electoral Commission notes that Jami-Lee Ross has said he will lay a complaint with the police over donations made to Simon Bridges and the National Party and their compliance with the Electoral Act.
"The commission has not received any complaints that relate to these matters at this stage. The commission will provide assistance to the police in their inquiries."
The rules around disclosure of donations are:
• The name and address of the donor must be reported in the candidate return where the donor has given more than $1,500 to the candidate for their campaign.
• For party returns, the name and address of the donor must be reported where the donor has given more than $15,000. Party donations of more than $30,000 must be declared within 10 working days."
In an explosive press conference at Parliament Jami-Lee Ross lashed out at a "corrupt" Bridges, saying he will complain to police about the handling of donations made to the party.
His attack on Bridges was timed during the National caucus meeting behind closed doors.
Ross told reporters he plans to lay a police complaint over Bridges' handling of donations - and says he will provide a recording of a conversation with the National leader to support his complaint.
He revealed he had quit the National Party and plans to stand as an independent candidate in a Botany byelection.
Ross also revealed he was accused by National of harassing four women: "I was asked for details. I was not given any."
Ross said his questions were not addressed, and a week later, he went on sick leave: "It was difficult to accept, and I had a mental breakdown."
He said he was hurt that Bridges characterised his issues as "embarrassing".
Ross told reporters he had started to question Bridges' leadership soon after he became leader.
He also questioned the legality of some of Bridges' actions. He initially thought Bridges was prime minister material, but no longer thought that. Ross said it was clear he had had a falling out with his leader.
"He now has a net negative favourability of -27 in internal polling ... the New Zealand public are not stupid."
Ross claimed Bridges filed a false electoral return. He says Cathedral Club is a front for a friend of Bridges that he knows well.
"Filing a false return is a corrupt place. Falsifying the name of a donor to hide the identity is a corrupt practice," Ross alleged.
Bridges yesterday denied any wrongdoing involving donations to the party.
Ross said Bridges asked him to collect a $100,000 donation which was then split into smaller amounts to hide it.
Ross later asked Bridges about the donation, and recorded the conversation.
Ross said he will go to police tomorrow to lay a complaint and allow them to hear the phone conversation with Bridges.
He will also release photos of Bridges with the donor, a Chinese businessman, but he stressed he did not think the businessman had done anything wrong.
He named the donor as Zhang Wiyun.
The donation that he alleges is corrupt was separate from the donations that were discussed in a TV interview yesterday, he said.
Ross said the donation was made in May/June and alleged it was covered up under instructions from Bridges.
He alleged Todd McClay was also aware of the $100,000 donation, and National Party general manager Greg Hamilton also knew about it.
Ross said the PwC report into the leak of Bridges' travel expenses had used his conversations with local police against him. He said it was not unusual for MPs to talk with local police.
Ross said he asked to address the caucus before the report was released to media, but this was denied.
"The campaign to push me out did ramp up considerably three weeks ago," Ross said.
He said when he asked Bridges about the four women he was accused of harassing, he was told that 15 women could be found. "Simon and Paula were the judge, jury and executioners."
Plans to contest Botany byelection
Ross said he is now mentally well again.
"I can no longer serve in a political party led by a corrupt politician."
Ross said he will resign his National Party membership and his Botany seat.
He said his contract is with the people of Botany. "I have fought for my community."
He planned to stand as an independent candidate in the Botany byelection.
"I'm confident I can run on a track record of 15 years."
Ross said he still believed in National Party values, despite his dramatic falling out with Bridges.
"New Zealand deserves better from the National Party ... I'm not proud of not speaking out until now.
"I am sad to be departing, for now, a party that has many good people."
Ross said other National MPs were also concerned about Bridges' leadership - but they were too concerned and would rally behind the leader.
He would not name other National MP who he said had had conversations questioning Bridges' leadership. The fact he did so and was part of the inner senior team had led to his falling out with Bridges.
Ross said Amy Adams, Judith Collins, and Mark Mitchell - who all stood in the leadership contest - were all more capable and honest leaders than Bridges.
But it was up to the caucus to choose a leader, and he was no longer part of the caucus.
Ross said he was devastated to be accused of harassing women. His world crashed down around him and he got help.
He said he was "ambushed" and was about to lose his career and reputation. He thought long and hard about it and then asked Bridges for more information, but Bridges told him he could find not just four women, but 15 women.
"I wanted to know what the allegations were, but was never given the opportunity."
"If something has happened, I would like to know so I can fix it ... I still have not been told anything."
Continued denial of leak
Ross insisted he did not leak the travel expenses, but said he did leak the later text message about the leaker because he was "floored" by the lack of compassion from Bridges.
He hoped leaking the text message would trigger compassion from Bridges.
"I made a call. I thought trying to get it out publicly ... would offer the person a reprieve."
Ross noted he was addressing media while the National caucus was meeting, but what happened in that meeting no longer concerned him as he was leaving the party and stepping down from his Botany seat to force a byelection.
Ross times accusations while National can't respond
National MPs are now meeting behind closed doors to decide the fate of accused leaker Ross, with many angry at his "disloyal" and "delusional" behaviour.
Ross waited till the caucus meeting had started to announce his media conference via Twitter.
There are reports that Ross' webpage has been deleted from the National Party website.
The sidelined MP was yesterday fingered by a PwC inquiry as the person who leaked leader Simon Bridges' travel expenses.
But Ross is not going quietly, firing out several tweets yesterday denying being the leaker, accusing National of "unlawful" behaviour and claiming he had secretly recorded some conversations with Bridges before taking health leave from Parliament two weeks ago.
The National caucus is now meeting to decide what punishment to hand out to Ross, with suspension an option.
Ross said the senior leadership of the party was going to push him out of caucus anyway.
He said he was happy to speak out now and stand for Botany as an independent MP in a byelection.