A taped conversation between former National MP Jami-Lee Ross, party leader Simon Bridges and deputy Paula Bennett shows the leadership tried to keep their internal problems out of the public eye.
Watch Simon Bridges discussing the audio leak on Morning Report:
Extracts of the conversation were broadcast by Newshub’s The AM Show today.
According to Newshub, the audio was recorded early last month as National was negotiating with Mr Ross over the terms on which he’d take leave from Parliament.
In the tape, Mr Ross is heard questioning what he has done, and Ms Bennett responds by discussing disloyalty.
“You do know what the disloyalty stuff is, and that’s been put to you really clearly. If that was put to caucus, that would be enough,” Ms Bennett said. “We are trying to give you the lightest possible way out of this.”
Ms Bennett suggests to use either medical or family reasons for Mr Ross’ departure. The Botany MP then admits medical leave would be true.
“And it means that everyone will back off you too,” Ms Bennett says. “The media and all that sort of stuff, which I think it’s important.”
Mr Bridges gives Mr Ross an “100 percent assurance” that if he sticks with the statement along the lines discussed, he would never badmouth him in private or public.
“I will do everything within my power to keep the things we talked about last week out of the public arena. I will do everything.”
Mr Bridges also tells Mr Ross if he behaves well, he could be promoted in future.
“We can get through it and you can get through and you come out the other side if your attitude after time out is good and positive – and you can be promoted again.”
The National Party said it stands by the steps it took in relation to Mr Ross.