Politics

National MPs shocked by women’s Ross allegations

Simon Bridges has denied being aware of issues around Jami-Lee Ross' relationships with women until National's leak investigation began. 

This morning, Newsroom’s Melanie Reid shared the accounts of four women who had been involved personally and professionally with Ross.

Bridges said he was not aware of any allegations surrounding Ross at the level of detail reported by Newsroom until the leak investigation began. 

"I knew nothing before the leak investigation of any of these sort of things," Bridges said. 

"I have absolutely no doubt in my mind I dealt with things in the right way," he said. 

Ross told media on Tuesday that Bridges had approached him three weeks ago with four independent accusations of harassment. 

But Deputy Leader Paula Bennett later told the New Zealand Herald the allegations related to "inappropriate behaviour that is unacceptable from a married Member of Parliament."

National MPs have reacted with shock and horror to allegations of abuse and manipulation made against former colleague Jami-Lee Ross by a number of women.The women, who spoke out on the condition of anonymity, said the relationships had led to them being groomed, used for access to information and power, or abused.

National MPs appeared stunned by the news of Ross’s actions.

North Shore MP Maggie Barry said she was unaware of the extent of his behaviour, which appeared “narcissistic, untrustworthy, [and] totally self-destructive”.

“I was not anywhere near aware of the extent of his Machiavellian behaviour until recently, I think the individual has kept a lot of this very quiet. He's clearly, from what Melanie Reid has discovered, manipulated and what would you say, forced people to stay in a difficult position.”

“The guy’s highly manipulative, it’s a mystery to me how he can sleep at night [and] if even a fraction of what we are now hearing come through is true, then he has been extraordinarily adept at covering his tracks and leading multiple lives.”

Barry said she did not know of anyone who had received complaints about Ross “of a substantial nature” before Newsroom’s reporting.

“I’m not privy to what the board and what the party and others might have heard, but I think we run a very tight ship usually…

“The guy’s highly manipulative, it’s a mystery to me how he can sleep at night [and] if even a fraction of what we are now hearing come through is true, then he has been extraordinarily adept at covering his tracks and leading multiple lives.”

Barry stood against Ross for pre-selection in the Botany seat before the 2011 election, and said he “certainly had a giant ego”.

“He had the help of Simon Lusk who obviously is masterminding this campaign and is well-known for his dirty politics and playing a little less than fair. That guy is a piece of work as well, again they’re well suited.”

The National caucus was more united than ever as a result of Ross’s actions, she said.

"This is a maverick situation from an individual who has pushed the self-destruct button and he’s not going to take us down with him.”

"I of course have great sympathy and hope the women concerned are getting the support, and I'm assured they are, that they deserve and I'm also very concerned for Jami-Lee's family."

Chris Finlayson, who has signalled his departure from Parliament, said of Ross's personal conduct: "I haven't really studied Jami-Lee Ross hard enough to make any comments on his moral rectitude or lack of it."

Finlayson said questions about whether Ross should have been granted medical leave and a possible return to Parliament given the nature of the allegations were "a matter for the leadership".

"Look, I'm on my way out...frankly I'm zoned out on a lot of this stuff after the last few days."

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith said the allegations seemed "out of character" for Ross, based on the fact the party's MPs had been unaware of the behaviour outlined by Newsroom.

"I of course have great sympathy and hope the women concerned are getting the support, and I'm assured they are, that they deserve and I'm also very concerned for Jami-Lee's family."

"What I suspect is there was an effort to protect the women involved...reading Melanie Reid's article this morning, I don't know how to describe it. Deeply sad.”

Speaking to Newshub’s AM Show, Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee said the news was “deeply distressing”.

"What I suspect is there was an effort to protect the women involved...reading Melanie Reid's article this morning, I don't know how to describe it. Deeply sad.”

Speaking to media on Wednesday afternoon about allegations of affairs, but before Newsroom’s investigation was published, Ross said he was “comfortable with all of my conduct”.

“I know that there’s smears about me at the moment: what I think has always been something in New Zealand politics that we leave personal lives and family out of this.

“I’m comfortable with what I have with my wife - if the way in which we’re about to play politics, when a political party and the leader is under pressure, if they want to start lifting the bed sheets on everyone that works in that building, you guys and MPs, then I think there’ll be a lot of people concerned - even those that are throwing allegations now.”

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