Sex, lies and audiotape

The rolling grenade continues. It is like a Catherine Wheel that never stops. By the time this article is published, there will be a whole new chapter to this saga. Nobody can keep up. We would have to keep our proofreaders up all night to stay current with this stuff, and well – that isn’t fair. I guess not, anyway.

I listened to the audio recording that Jami-Lee Ross released yesterday, and I have to say that it does not appear to be a smoking gun to me. From what I heard, Simon Bridges seemed to think that the donations received were within the rules. I will leave it to the lawyers to decide if that is correct but that was my genuine impression of Bridges’ attitude. He wanted the money to spend on advertising but he did not seem to think there was a problem with the procurement of the funds themselves.

Some of the rest of it was acutely embarrassing though. Poor Maureen Pugh. She should not have heard her leader describe her as ‘f***ing useless’. That is just dreadful. It is hard for some MPs to gain traction in a star-studded cast, but she did not deserve that.

How must the supporters of Maureen Pugh feel right now? It was a disgrace.

What about all the National party members and supporters, who go round dropping off leaflets, fund raising and attending meetings to keep up their party support? There are lots of them who do what they do to try to keep their party in government. If I were one of them, I would be ashamed.

Yes, I know it was a private conversation and, yes, we have all been guilty of transgressions like this. But what a spectacular fail it was for Simon Bridges – criticizing hard working MPs who would probably have given him support in his leadership but not now. Why would they?

Maureen Pugh has been all class in her response to Bridges, which is more than can be said of her leader. But, don’t kid yourself. This must really be hurting and the consequences of that will unfold in time.

I saw a brief clip of Bridges at some meeting today (Thursday). He tried to make a quip about – his first question was – is anybody taping me? It fell to the ground with an almost deafening silence. Maureen Pugh, and probably the local Indian community, may have felt that they deserved better than that.

VERY poor taste, Simon. This is not funny. Not funny at all.

Ditto former Attorney General Chris Finlayson, and former Speaker David Carter. Most senior MPs are allowed to bide their time until they are ready to move on. Both have served their party and their country well, in their time. They didn’t deserve that either.

Then, the gunfire seemed to have been silenced, at least for a while, with allegations of sexual liaisons between Jami-Lee Ross and four women. Again, I’m not passing judgement, but Ross’s position on the moral high ground seems to be falling about his ears.

I have had a few people today say to me that this is New Zealand’s ‘Weinstein’ moment.

It is absolutely not. Here is why.

These women spoke out because Ross claimed he has always ‘respected’ women. Clearly, they disagree.

Weinstein may have been a sexual deviant, but many of his accusers benefited from that, as far as their careers were concerned anyway. From all accounts, the women associated with Ross were terrified that they would lose their jobs because of him.

That is a very big difference.

These women had a horrible time at the hands of Ross. They say he was bullying and manipulative. Their identities will probably be common knowledge soon. This is a nightmare for them, but then again, they are right in coming forward. He must not be allowed to continue to pretend he is a saint in all of this.

In this whole sorry saga, I can see no winners. Jami-Lee Ross is doing so much damage to the National party that I only hope they can recover in time for the next election. I have my doubts about that. Many of you disagreed with my Shakespearean analogy, saying that I am overblowing it all, but that article was written on Wednesday afternoon. Do you still think I am exaggerating all of this? Really?

Someone has to do something to cauterise the wound. Bridges has to resign. Ross has to be silenced. Bennett has to go. The National party board, that has been complicit in allowing Jami-Lee Ross to ride roughshod over so many people for so long, must take responsibility for the monster they have allowed to grow. We need a clean out there too.

As I said, there is nothing good in all of this. A good, Shakespearean clean?out might be the only thing to save them; but that will only work if they are smart enough and brave enough to do what is required.

I’m not sure about that.

Is this a dagger which I see before me?