Labour's former party president has called outgoing MP Jami-Lee Ross' recent allegations against Simon Bridges breaking electoral law as "utterly unprecedented in New Zealand politics".
Former Labour Party president Mike Williams told TVNZ's Breakfast this morning that the Jami-Lee Ross saga is a failure of leadership from Simon Bridges.
"It is, as you said, absolutely extraordinary. I can't think of anything in my very long memory of politics in this country that matches it," Mr Williams said.
"What has he accused Simon Bridges of? Well, essentially, corruption over a political donation, and if it's half true, Bridges is in trouble."
He said Mr Bridges "should have answered that question" on allegations into electoral fraud, and that he “kept fudging it” during a news conference yesterday, that came after Mr Ross' dramatic hour-long appearance.
"I did not hear Simon Bridges deny it yesterday," he said.
The former Labour president said the claims could be very serious if proven true, calling it “utterly unprecedented in New Zealand politics”.
"Things have got way out of hand in the National Party caucus. Basically, it's poor leadership. When somebody is going off the tracks in the way that Jami-Lee Ross was clearly going off the tracks, a leader has got to see what's coming and get them back on the tracks. This is really a failure by Simon Bridges."
He said the security of Mr Bridges' position as National leader is dependent on the outcome of the by-election, which was triggered following Mr Ross' announcement of his resignation from Parliament yesterday.
"If National has a poor result, and if Jami-Lee Ross wins it, then it's all over for Simon Bridges, in my view," he said.
Mr Williams said it would be "not likely but not impossible" for Mr Ross to hold on to his seat in Botany as an independent.
"Jami-Lee Ross is a good campaigner, and he has a good organisation in that electorate. Whether that local organisation has stuck with him throughout this bizarre episode, we’ll find out in the next few weeks."
Mr Williams said yesterday’s allegations "could well affect their polling", which has been "very stable since the election".
"The Labour Party vote did not twitch during the Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri episodes. This is on a different scale, however, and I think if the National Party party vote starts to go down in the polls, then that is a severe problem from Simon Bridges."