National Party leader Judith Collins will not commit to telling her MPs before she makes policy, as she defends her decision to announce a review into Auckland Council if elected.
Collins announced the review during a radio interview on Monday morning. An email leaked to Newshub later in the day showed National's Auckland Council spokeswoman Denise Lee calling the policy a "highly problematic idea", "another working group", and said bypassing her was "incredibly poor form and displays a shockingly bad example of poor culture".
Another National Party member said Collins was consistently "making up policy on the hoof" and creating division.
Asked by media this morning whether she would commit to telling her MPs before making policy, Collins said she would not.
"No. In fact, it's very important as a leader that I make those decisions. It's important to understand that we don't have leadership by committee, we have leadership," she said.
Collins denied she was making policies on the hoof and said her MPs were not "revolting".
"Leaders do make decisions. That's part of leadership. And I think I know what you're talking about and of course the issue is that's something the campaign team has worked on for weeks," Collins said.
"During campaigns, you know, sometimes the leader has to go out and make that announcement and that's how it works."
Other National MPs had not signed off on the policy, but the party campaign team had.
"Campaign teams do make decisions during campaign, and I understand that the MP involved [Denise Lee], it's her first time campaigning as an MP, the thing is that's what leaders do ... I call it the leader's call," Collins said.
She avoided a direct answer when asked how it felt to be leaked against during the campaign, instead saying: "I think that everyone will be wondering, everyone else here is focused on getting the party vote. I have spoken to Denise Lee, she is very focused on building the party vote and winning her seat and that's what I expect everyone to be."
Collins said Lee was wrong that National's proposed review of Auckland Council was "another working group".
"Obviously she's wrong," Collins said.
Whether Lee should remain as the Auckland Council spokeswoman was a matter for Collins to decide upon. "That's one of the joys of leadership, you get to make the decisions."
Collins said her caucus was united and denied the "wheels were falling off the bus".
"I think we are all very focused on making sure we win the party vote and electorate votes wherever that is possible."
Asked if she was creating "poor culture" in her party, Collins said: "The National Party has had to deal with some very difficult issues this year and I've dealt with those very decisively, you may have noticed."
National economic development spokesman Todd McClay, who was also at the media briefing, said he didn't think Collins was making up policy on the hoof and that he had confidence in her. He is on the campaign team.
Fellow National MP Michael Woodhouse, also present, said: "In the heat of a campaign, a leader does have to make decisions from time to time and I completely support that process."
In a written statement today, Denise Lee said the email had been sent to fellow MPs and was intended for internal purposes only.
"I completely disagree with the actions of the person who leaked the email and have since spoken with our party leader Judith Collins," she said.
"I accept the leadership's decision about the policy announcement which acknowledges that Auckland Council needs to lift its performance. I remain focused on winning the seat of Maungakiekie and unreservedly support Judith Collins as leader and future prime minister."
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said right now, voters were looking for political parties to be focused on the issues that mattered.
Internal issues were not what the public wanted from politicians, she said.
"I would certainly say you can't afford that [making policy on the hoof] from any political party right now. What we need ... is a strong economic plan for a strong recovery and that should be our absolute focus on behalf of New Zealand right now."
New Zealanders wanted stability, she said.
"No matter what, what it does amount to are obviously internal issues there and look, that is a matter for National."
Instead of making up "policy on the hoof", Ardern preferred to have a plan that had been analysed for its impacts and benefits.
She said it was up to National to solve their own issues.
Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson said National was a "chaotic shambles that can't be trusted to run the country at such a critical time in our Covid recovery".
He wants Collins to release evidence to prove that her campaign team had indeed been working on the Auckland Council review policy - "to prove she hasn't misled New Zealanders".
"If she can't then it raises serious questions around the accuracy of her statement.
"This email seems to prove the rumours of a campaign in chaos. National have churned through three leaders in the space of three months, faces an exodus of 19 experienced MPs like Amy Adams, Nikki Kaye and Paula Bennett at the election and according to this email are still infighting.
"They are now a divided party who pose a real threat to our economic recovery if they were elected."