COMMENT:

On a day that was all about the National Party, it was NZ First leader Winston Peters who took the prize for the best summary.

Walking into Parliament for Question Time, Peters wandered up to the waiting media and played them the soundtrack for Kelly's Heroes: Burning Bridges.

Two hours earlier, Jami-Lee Ross had stood on the same black and white tiles on Parliament's first floor lobby and fired a broadside at the Bridges Peters was referring to – National Party leader Simon Bridges.

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Ross resigned from the National Party and as an MP so he could contest his Botany by election as an independent.

He stood alone. The rest of his colleagues had already walked past various pockets of media and, in an astonishing display of collective disdain, many condemned Ross, citing gross disloyalty rather than opting for the "no comment" approach.

At the start of the day going into that caucus meeting, National MP Todd Muller described the general feeling in National as "raw".

When they came out two hours later, it was raw and bleeding. Ross was amputated and accusations were flying.

Soon after the National MPs locked the door for their caucus meeting at 10.30am, Ross had sent a tweet and texts to journalists to advise he would speak to media at 11am in that lobby.

He came alone, arriving from the hallway to the Beehive rather than the National offices and left the same way, a solitary figure ostracised from his own party and, it soon became clear, hell bent on revenge. When he left there was silence. It was an absolutely gobsmacking event.

MP Jami-Lee Ross leaves after announcing he was leaving the National Party and hitting out at Simon Bridges. Photo / Mark Mitchell
MP Jami-Lee Ross leaves after announcing he was leaving the National Party and hitting out at Simon Bridges. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There were the details of his logistics. He turned off his phone at 1pm on Monday, drove down from Auckland, finished his statement at 10am on Tuesday, printed it off at Warehouse Stationery and went to Parliament just after the National Party caucus began.

One of the questions of the day was why Ross drove down rather than flew.

"I needed the time out to clear my head and think about what I needed to do ... I've had nine hours of driving to think about it."

Ross managed to be lucid for his 57-minute long stand-up. He called Bridges "corrupt", "dishonest" and accused him of unlawful handling of a donation. He said he would go to the police and claimed Bridges and his deputy Paula Bennett had accused him of harassing women.

He claimed MPs were "having conversations in their offices late at night" about Bridges, concerned about his polling. As he spoke, a tour group passed by and a group of school children. The Speaker took the long way to the cafe to avoid getting caught in the background.

Bridges' delivered a 12-minute response to this tirade.

He turned up to the same black and white tiles half an hour after Ross left them.

Behind him stood the very same people Ross had just listed as those who would be better leaders than Bridges – Judith Collins, Mark Mitchell, and Amy Adams - as well as Paula Bennett and Todd McClay.

National leader Simon Bridges, flanked by MPs Amy Adams (left), Mark Mitchell, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett, after National expels Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National leader Simon Bridges, flanked by MPs Amy Adams (left), Mark Mitchell, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett, after National expels Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Asked about Ross' allegations of his "corrupt" handling of a donation, Bridges hedged and fudged, declared everything Ross had said was baseless and then hedged and fudged again.

Asked again for any details around the donation or whether it had even been offered or given, he insisted he had already answered the questions.

It was unclear whether Bridges was not answering because he could not or would not.

The end result was he looked shifty and evasive.

It beggars belief Bridges fronted at all without having a convincing response to that allegation.

Later in the day, National Party President Peter Goodfellow issued a statement saying Ross' allegations did not match anything in National's records.

Bennett told reporters she had not accused Ross of harassment, but of inappropriate behaviour for a married MP. Take that as code for what you will.

Until and unless either National or the police clear matters up, it will remain a matter of credibility. Was Ross "delusional" as Judith Collins claimed and Bridges atrociously and wrongly maligned? Or was Bridges in trouble?

As for Ross, all sour grapes grow from a seed and 50 minutes into Ross' press conference he revealed what that seed was.

Jami-Lee Ross denies being leaker and says Bridges isn't fit to lead National Party.

Ross had supported Bridges both as deputy leader back in 2016 and as leader earlier this year.

In return he had expected a plum post – but Bridges had given them to others instead, Shadow Leader of the House to Gerry Brownlee and chief whip to Barbara Kuriger. He did get a front bench role and Transport, but not what he said he was promised.

Whatever the truth, the National Party put on quite a show. In all of its nine years in Opposition, Labour never provided such fireworks despite churning through five leaders.

Ahead lies that Botany byelection for a series of encores.