The ongoing saga around leaked details of the National leader’s transport spending reveals a party with serious internal problems, writes Jane Patterson for RNZ
If National Party leader Simon Bridges wasn’t already sweating he will be now, with a second leak, possibly from within his own caucus.
First there was a leak to Newshub about his travel expenses; now there’s been a second leak from someone concerned the inquiry into the first leak is still going ahead.
An anonymous source has contacted RNZ to reveal both Bridges and the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, received a text from an unidentified member of the National Party caucus, claiming to be the source of the original leak.
Based on information given to RNZ, the text from the unnamed MP last week went on to say they were in a vulnerable emotional state and if they were named and shamed that could tip them over the edge.
That would seem to verify the widely held belief the original leak did in fact come from one of Bridges’ own MPs.
Both Bridges and Mallard had a role in launching the inquiry.
The morning after Newshub revealed the leak it was a “nothing to see here” from Bridges; within hours it had become a threat to democracy in New Zealand with Bridges calling for an inquiry – and Mallard obliged.
The speaker had been reluctant to have an inquiry in to what appeared to be an internal party leak, but Bridges forced his hand.
But despite the appeal from the anonymous MP, Bridges and Mallard have not responded.
Bridges has not changed his position and the Speaker has announced the QC to head the inquiry.
That happened days after that text was received, indicating the inquiry is full steam ahead.
From what RNZ has been told, the texter included information about caucus conversations over several weeks to prove they were a National MP.
That then brings us to the second leak, from a person concerned the inquiry is still going ahead despite that text.
If they too are a National Party MP that presents a picture of a party with serious internal problems.
Under the leadership of John Key the caucus was locked down and disciplined, helped significantly by sustained political popularity; but even so leaks of this nature are extremely rare so to have one, and now possibly a second, should make Bridges very nervous.
There will be differing views within the caucus about becoming the subject of a “forensic” investigation, effectively at the behest of their leader.
Some will welcome the search for what had all the hallmarks of a political hatchet job, others will be offended and concerned about the invasion of privacy, given all MPs were ordered to sign a waiver so all of their communications could be accessed by the inquiry team.
A big call in the context of parliamentary privilege and the highly sensitive information held by MPs, including constituency work, but who would dare be the MP who refused?
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