National want Bridges out - new leak suggests

The AM Show 15/10/2018

Simon Bridges says "it's not the truth" people inside his own party don't want him as leader.

As the investigation into his expenses leak nears its end, The AM Show host Duncan Garner has revealed more from within the National Party.

Garner told viewers and listeners on Monday morning internal polling by the party has Mr Bridges' favourability rating at negative 25 percent.

"This is all nonsense," Mr Bridges responded. "The reality is the National Party is in great shape. We're the most popularly supported political party in New Zealand under my leadership... I feel great about what I'm doing. Every day I get up I'm positive about my job."

Garner said over the weekend he had "contacts" within National telling him Mr Bridges had to go.

"It's not the truth," said Mr Bridges. "The reality is I've got an incredibly strong caucus that is behind [me], we're working hard, we're holding the Government to account... I feel like we're doing a great job in Opposition. We're one year in, we're getting great hits on the Government."

Another party insider revealed to Garner Mr Bridges' election returns were handed in late after amendments were made. Two donations - one of $10,000, another of $14,000 - were initially recorded on Mr Bridges' own return, but removed and placed on the National Party's return instead.

This leak, Mr Bridges accepted was true.

Photo: The AM Show

"There's a party and there's candidate - these things were wrongly filed as candidate," said Mr Bridges. "They shouldn't have been, and then they were refilled as party. It's as simple as that."

The $10,000 donation came from 'Cathedral Club'. Mr Bridges refused to talk about who that was.  According to blog posts by National-aligned pollster David Farrar and far-right blogger Cameron Slater, Cathedral Club appears to be bimonthly dinner featuring speakers from the political world. Both men imply attendees aren't meant to reveal the details of conversations that take place at such meetings.

The larger donation came from Cubro Ltd, which Mr Bridges said was a healthcare business in Tauranga. Garner revealed the owners are also members of the Exclusive Brethren, a religious sect who controversially spent more than $1 million of their own money trying to get National elected in 2005. Nicky Hager's book The Hollow Men detailed how the National Party worked with the Brethren behind the scenes, while publicly denying it.

Mr Bridges said he didn't know the company had Brethren links, even though he's been to the company's premises.

"I'm not interested in what people's religions are - whether they be Sikh, whether they be Christian, whether they be Muslim. Those are not important issues to me or New Zealanders."

Pressed on the Brethren link, Mr Bridges was defiant.

"With the greatest respect, I've made really clear what happened here, and there is nothing inappropriate or unlawful in any way, shape or form."

A spokesperson for National said in a statement the donations were received by the party, not Mr Bridges - the mistake of adding them to Mr Bridges' return was made by the party's Tauranga Electorate Committee.

"This error was discovered soon after lodging the candidate return, and the Electoral Commission was contacted immediately to seek advice.

"Acting on that advice Mr Bridges' candidate return was amended, and then re-submitted to the Electoral Commission for publication."

Mr Bridges said the leak investigation could be over if those who received the communications filled him in.

"If you tell me, I can answer."

Watch the full interview with Simon Bridges above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

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