Why it's time for Simon Bridges to swallow his pride over Jami-Lee Ross

by Bill Ralston / 02 February, 2019
National Party leader Simon Bridges. Photo/Getty Images

National Party leader Simon Bridges. Photo/Getty Images

RelatedArticlesModule - simon bridges jami lee ross

Jami-Lee Ross’ mere presence in Parliament will be a disastrous distraction for National – it's time Simon Bridges tipped him from the waka, says Bill Ralston.

No sooner has the new year begun than an old, smelly, problem for the National Party has begun to waft through Parliament again. The now-independent MP Jami-Lee Ross, expelled from the party’s caucus last year, has finished his cuppa and a lie-down and is returning to the halls of power.

As you may recall, Ross was accused of leaking a story about party leader Simon Bridges’ travel expenses, presumably in the hope of destabilising his leadership. He was expelled from the party, held a lengthy press conference during which he excoriated Bridges, laid a couple of police complaints that are embarrassing for National, admitted shagging a couple of female colleagues, was then accused of bullying and abusing staff, his marriage split up and he was eventually committed to a mental-health facility.

After lying low for a couple of months, he reappeared in January claiming a text message from a former colleague and ex-lover had led him to consider self-harm, which is why he was placed in care.

Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie reportedly texted Ross in August in the early hours of the morning saying, “Before you interpret this as your usual narc self – don’t interpret it as me – you are a f---ing ugly MF pig. Shave that f---ing tuft of hair off your f---ing front of skull head and own your baldness – you sweaty, fat, toe inturned mutant. You deserve to die and leave your children in peace and your wife out of torment – f---er!”

I am unsure what she meant by referring to him as a “narc”, I have no idea what a “MF pig” is, I am not clear on why a balding man should shave off his remaining hair as she advocates, and I have never seen Ross’ naked feet so I cannot say whether his toes are “inturned”. But it is clear that she was not happy with her former lover.

It is the “You deserve to die” line that is causing Dowie a few problems. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to have upset Ross at the time, but he says he was flicking through his messages a few months later, in October, re-read it, and it triggered his desire for self-harm. He texted her back, saying, “You get your wish”, which set off the police hunt and his spell in a mental-health facility.

A complaint was then promptly lodged under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, under which someone inciting suicide could be liable to up to three years in prison, and 14 years if suicide is committed.  Police are investigating.

Ross has said in returning to Parliament he is not after revenge against anyone, yet Beehive security has been stepped up to ensure uninvited guests won’t have access to National Party offices. Intentional or not, he is already getting his revenge on Bridges, his deputy Paula Bennett and Dowie. The party goes into 2019 knowing Ross’ mere presence in Parliament will be a disastrous distraction and, at worst, he is a ticking time bomb.

Bridges needs to swallow his pride and use the waka-jumping bill to eject Ross from the House. A Colmar Brunton poll in December showed 44% of those surveyed thought he should do it, 24% disagreed and 31% did not know.

At present, the public are simply rubber-necking at the mess Ross has created. He does not appear to have won much sympathy. Decisive action by Bridges will probably increase the leader’s support because Kiwis like strong action from their politicians.

Anything else will hamstring the Opposition between now and next year’s general election.

This column was first published in the February 9, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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