'He's severely wounded' - Bridges, Ross saga could be far from over, 1 NEWS political team says

The Jami-Lee Ross saga could be far from over if there are more tapes, 1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch McKay and Corin Dann say.

Mr Ross this week accused National Party leader Simon Bridges of falsifying donation records, saying he had a taped phone recording of the pair discussing it.

He then quit the party, prompting a by-election in Botany which he said he would run for as an independent, just minutes before the party voted to throw him out anyway.

Party President Peter Goodfellow said soon after that no falsifying had taken place, insisting donation records are audited by a third party each year, but Mr Ross laid a complaint with police regardless.

Mr Ross then released the audio of his call with Mr Bridges, which wasn't as incriminating as perhaps intended in terms of falsifying donation records - but it did cause some embarrassment to Mr Bridges due to the nature of the conversation.

Mr Bridges and Mr Ross can be heard on the tape discussing the desirability of certain ethnic groups to the campaign, which has been perceived by some in those groups as either tokenism or even outright racism.

Mr Bridges was also caught calling his West Coast MP Mauren Pugh "f****** useless" - a comment which was picked up by numerous overseas news outlets. He has since apologised and she has said she was hurt, but that she also understands.

Two women then anonymously said they had affairs with Mr Ross, who has been married for 10 years, and two others accused him of harassment, emotional abuse and bullying when they worked with him.

Mr Ross did not make a public appearance yesterday in the wake of those revelations. He declined 1 NEWS' requests for comment.

Dann said the fallout has exposed "an ugly side of politics", including Chinese influence over New Zealand politics.

"It's been so extraordinary to watch from the sidelines because you're suddenly seeing a whole lot of things you probably think are going on at all times in politics, but laid bare for the public to see," he said.

Hearing the candid conversation between Mr Bridges and Mr Ross was "pretty raw" and "has had reverberations" through the Indian and Chinese communities due to what was said.

Mutch McKay said if the saga continues to drag on, it could be hard for Mr Bridges to shake it off.

"This is hugely damaging and these attacks on Simon Bridges are meant to hurt," she said.

"If this drags on for another few weeks, if there are more secret recordings ... then this could be hard for Simon Bridges."

Mutch McKay said the National caucus seems to have been unified by their dislike of Mr Ross, but in coming weeks they may begin to question their leader.

Dann agreed, saying Mr Bridges had done "fairly well" in fending off the difficult issues, but that more strife could come when the main event is over.

"Simon Bridges has now got some time, but I do think he's been severely wounded," Dann said.

"The party will probably make another assessment. They won't want to look like they're panicked into any move on him now, but at some point he's going to face difficult questions down the track around his leadership if the polling isn't good enough."

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The former MP did not speak yesterday, but there could still be more to come, say Jessica Mutch McKay and Corin Dann. Source: Breakfast

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