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Demoting Bridges without National Party board's support could backfire on Collins

Newshub logo Newshub 4 days ago Jenna Lynch
Watch Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch's report. © Newshub Watch Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch's report.

The National Party's latest controversy started with a five year old ember rekindled. 

Simon Bridges made an inappropriate comment to Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean during a caucus gathering in 2016 and on Wednesday night Judith Collins decided it was time Bridges paid. 

Demoting Bridges without National Party board's support could backfire on Collins
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Jacqui Dean, the woman on the receiving end of inappropriate comments made by Bridges, arrived into the eye of the storm on Thursday morning. 

"I'm OK, thank you," she told Newshub, when asked how she was doing. "I'll be talking together with our leader at 10 o'clock today."

That was the plan... until it wasn't .

On Wednesday night, Collins lobbed a grenade into her party, releasing a late night statement demoting Bridges after what she called an allegation of serious misconduct.

But the political grenade blew up in her face. Instead of fronting a press conference, she faced a vote of no confidence.

"It's a matter of principle," she told Newshub. "Every woman and every man should feel safe in the workplace and what is really important is that you don't ignore allegations by sweeping them under the carpet."

Bridges was forced to fess up. 

"We were talking about the fact I have two boys and I wanted a girl and I engaged in some old wives' tales about that and how to have a girl and I entirely accept and I'm regretful of that day because I acknowledge that some of what I said was clearly inappropriate," he said of the historic incident. 

The comments were made during an all day caucus event hosted by then-Prime Minister Sir John Key at the official Prime Minister's residence, Premier House, in 2016. 

Newshub understands it was said in a group which included disgraced former MP Jami Lee ross and Todd McClay. 

"I have no recollection of any comments," McClay said.

Bridges remembers - but won't repeat it. 

"I don't think it's helpful to give you the words but there's been media comment and it's pretty much on the money," he said. 

A warning this is unpleasant: His wording was along these lines: 'Hey Jacqui, we've been talking about how to have a daughter, do you think I should do long slow strokes or short hard strokes'.

"I recognise it was inappropriate," Bridges said. 

Dean is not one of the most well-known in the caucus. She perhaps made more of a splash as a former host of Playskool. She's now Assistant Speaker of the House. 

Dean released a statement saying: "At the time there was an apology, but subsequently it has continued to play on my mind."

Collins would probably sooner forget but doesn't regret it.

"Never," she said, when asked if she regrets sending the press statement. "Absolutely," she added, when asked if she stood by it. 

Collins said she had the backing of the National Party board to demote Bridges but Newshub has obtained an email sent by party president Peter Goodfellow to party members which says the board did not unanimously agree to sack Bridges as Collins has claimed. 

He says while the board did agree to an investigation of sorts when the allegations were brought to them, no specific penalties or actions were discussed, agreed or endorsed by the board. They never signed it off. 

Newshub checked in on Collins, and she just keeps saying how happy she is - very happy - after 499 days in purgatory. 

But given her actions - a failure to follow due process and the indisputable fact she's brought the party into disrepute - you have to wonder whether this could backfire further, whether Collins herself could end up being investigated for potentially breaching the National Party code of conduct.  

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