Former leader Simon Bridges has revealed he is considering returning to the role, saying National under Collins “didn’t do the job well enough”.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says she was surprised and disappointed that a conversation she had with now former party leader Judith Collins several weeks ago was used this week to fire and demote Tauranga MP Simon Bridges.
Collins lost her National Party leadership yesterday after a lengthy caucus meeting following her move to demote Bridges and strip him of his wallets late the previous night.
Collins said she did this because of a complaint filed by a female caucus colleague who claimed serious misconduct in connection with comments made by Bridges several years ago.
That colleague was Dean, who told the Otago Daily Times that she mentioned the incident to Collins during a conversation that followed meetings she attended as Assistant Speaker regarding recommendations from the Francis review of Parliament’s workplace culture.
“I approached Judith a few weeks ago about my concerns and the conversation was in the context of the work I’ve been doing with the Francis review, and I found myself disclosing my experience,” Dean said.
“The reason I did that was because while looking at the issues… later in the piece it suddenly occurred to me that this had happened to me and that I should be satisfied that not only Parliament, but the National Party as well really has the systems and processes to manage situations involving an MP and their behavior.
“I think we found ourselves very striking in something that was very different.
“That was not my intention, and I think several problems have been mixed up and the rest has been played out.”
Bridges’ late night firing caused outrage from many national MPs, enough for a hastily organized caucus meeting yesterday morning to pass a no-confidence vote against Collins.
Her deputy, Dr Shane Reti, is the interim party leader until a caucus meeting next Tuesday to elect a new leader, National’s sixth in the past five years.
Dean said Bridges’ disturbing comments weren’t directed at her, but were made while she was nearby.
She complained to party leaders at the time, and Bridges apologized again and again yesterday — a version of events he confirmed.
“I have absolutely no doubts about the sincerity of his apology,” Dean said.
“I believe there are two problems here, the parliamentary culture and a leadership struggle, and the two problems collided and I regret that.
“I am very grateful that Judith supported and supported me at the time, but it is not the outcome that could have been expected.”
Even though National was now looking for a new leader, the caucus had had a constructive discussion about the broader issue it had raised, Dean said.
“I also had a really good chat with Simon Bridges after that and we’ve come to a much better understanding of each other’s points of view and I think that’s a good start to change.”
She now wanted to put yesterday’s events in the past and return to her duties.
“Disputing a case from the past again, I don’t think it will get us anywhere.”
Collins said yesterday she knew taking action on Bridges’s comments would likely cost her leadership, but had no regrets.
“If I hadn’t, I felt like I wouldn’t deserve the part. I didn’t ask for the accusation to be made,” she said.
National Party chairman Peter Goodfellow said yesterday that the board did not approve of Bridges’ demotion, as Collins claimed.
Collins claimed in her statement that she had the “unanimous support” of the board.
Goodfellow said the board of directors had unanimously backed a first step in seeking more information from both sides before drawing conclusions.
He said no specific sanctions or actions were discussed, agreed upon or approved by the board of directors at its meeting on Wednesday, other than support for an investigation.