Ross to stand for NZ First in Botany – plan or joke?

It is easy to take this comment as a bit of a joke:

Funny thought ….. JLR jumps to NZF, a bit of theatre from Winny on saying XYZ, then JLR enters a by-election … wins for NZF and gets a plumb role in govt.

Oh so so funny

That seems ridiculous, but lets join a few dots.

That was said by someone with a close association with Cameron Slater.

Early last year Winston Peters’ lawyer represented Slater in his defamation case versus Colin Craig (unsuccessfully).

For many years Slater had criticised and ridiculed Peters, but suddenly last year switched to supporting Peters and NZ First through the election campaign. This may have simply been a way of trying to damage Bill English and National, who he had fallen out with, but it did raise some questions of why the sudden switch.

This year Slater has continued to attack National, and has attacked Simon Bridges since he took over the leadership.

When Jami-Lee Ross was ejected from the National caucus and took leave from Parliament (again) Slater became prominent in his support of Ross, and used information and secret recordings from Ross to attack Bridges and National. Some of Slater’s Whale Oil helpers have continued with their anti-bridges/National agenda.

Yesterday Peters announced that NZ First would proxy vote for Ross in Parliament – see NZ First proxy voting for Jami-lee Ross. Peters sounded uncomfortable trying to explain this unusual arrangement.

RNZ:  NZ First to hold Jami-Lee Ross’ proxy vote

Speaking to reporters at Parliament, Mr Peters said the decision was made in the “spirit of representation” to ensure Botany voters were heard in Parliament.

“We’re not here to kick the National Party,” Mr Peters said.

“We are here to say to the people of Botany… you deserve to have your voice heard.”

As long as Ross stays away from Parliament the voice of the people won’t be heard in Parliament, so this is a strange claim – unless Peters is just trying to impress Botany voters perhaps.

Back to the ‘funny’ comment – I would have thought that Peters was too politically astute to stand Parliament’s most discredited MP for NZ First in a by-election. But Slater and his mates could be silly enough to think it is a cunning plan. He and the person who made the comment have histories of trying some fairly stupid stunts.

I guess anything is possible but it is very hard to see Ross stand any chance if he tried to keep his Botany seat, even if he happens to recover from his claimed health problems in time for the campaign – someone who is unable to do their job in Parliament would struggle to get votes in an electorate.

Peters must realise this, so it’s hard to see him going for this unless he thought it was a way to kick National – when he says something like “We’re not here to kick the National Party” that raises suspicions that that is exactly what his intention actually is, akin to his ‘with the greatest respect’ comments.

It would be remarkable if Ross could get anywhere near close to winning Botany.

If he somehow managed that, getting “a plumb role in govt” would also be a stretch. That would mean he would take over responsibilities of a current NZ First minister, which would be unlikely to go down well. And Labour would be nuts to accept Ross in their Cabinet.

So this all seems to be a big joke – except that I wouldn’t put it past Slater and his mates to think it was a cunning plan.

It would go something like this:

  • Ross too sick to attend Parliament
  • NZ First proxy votes for Ross
  • Ross resigns from Parliament
  • Ross now not sick and stands for NZ First in Botany by-election, and wins
  • Ross appointed Cabinet Minister, replacing Tracey Martin as Minister of Children and Minister of (Internal) Affairs

Yes, it’s a joke.

How Jami-Lee Ross stands in Parliament now

On Tuesday Jami-Lee Ross stated that he intended resigning from the National Party and from Parliament (he said ‘on Friday’). He has since reneged on that commitment. What is his current position in Parliament?

Sitting date: 16 Oct 2018

SPEAKER’S RULINGS

Jami-Lee Ross

SPEAKER: Under Standing Order 35(1)(c), I have been advised by the senior Opposition whip that the National Party’s parliamentary membership has changed and that Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a member of the National Party for parliamentary purposes. Accordingly, under Standing Order 34(5), Jami-Lee Ross is, from 16 October 2018, regarded as an Independent member for parliamentary purposes.

Another seating plan: https://www.parliament.nz/media/5252/house-seating-plan-as-at-17-october-2018.pdf

While that is at the far back of the Opposition side Ross may sit uneasily beside and behind his ex-colleagues. He must be just about the least trusted MP ever.

Officially he still seems to be on two select committees. He lost most of his responsibilities when he went on leave at the start of the month.

Ross has been removed the National Party ‘team’ website page.

Presumably he is still theoretically operating as an electorate MP, but he may be isolated there too.

I don’t know how Ross will be able to function in Parliament or as an electorate MP.

Added:

Newsroom:  National mulls party-hopping action as Ross clings on

National says it is considering its options – including whether to use the controversial “party-hopping” law – following rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross’s decision to cling on to his seat in Parliament.

Earlier in the week, Ross had said he would resign from Parliament on Friday and contest a by-election in his Botany seat as an independent.

However, in an interview with Newstalk ZB and subsequent remarks on Twitter, he said National had “changed the rules”, alleging the party’s involvement in a Newsroom investigation into his conduct towards women, and said he would stay on as an MP and “continue speaking out about the internal operations of the National Party”.

Ross’s decision has now raised the spectre of whether National and its leader Simon Bridges will use the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act, legislation it has opposed bitterly, to force their MP out before he does further damage.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said under the legislation it was up to Bridges and the National caucus, not Speaker Trevor Mallard, to determine whether Ross had distorted and would continue to distort the proportionality of Parliament.

If the caucus voted by at least a two-thirds majority in support of using the party-hopping legislation, after Ross was given the required 21 working days’ notice to respond to his potential expulsion, Bridges could then deliver a letter to Mallard which would trigger Ross’s removal from Parliament and a by-election in his Botany seat.

There will no doubt be more said about what Ross may be allowed to do.

 

Attack on Bridges, attack on National part of a bigger strategy?

Are we witnessing a planned strategy to get Simon Bridges dumped, disrupt and split National, Trash National’s healthy polling, drive a wedge between National and Chinese and Asian voters to open the way for a Jami-Lee Ross win in the Botany by-election (an electorate with a lot of Asian constituents)?

After two days of all out attack on Bridges and the National Party by Jami-Lee Ross (and, it seems, shadowy political mercenary Simon Lusk) I felt that if this is how dirty politics gets I didn’t want to be a part of it, even from my remote interest. I wondered whether i should just pack up and walk away from political discussion.

Bridges was always struggling as leader, and this attack may destroy his chances of becoming Prime Minister. On it’s own forcing him out and forcing National’s hand on getting a new leader may do National a favour , except that Ross/Lusk are also waging a war on National.

Ross and Lusk are attacking democracy – I think that most people will deplore this sort of attack politics, and it is likely to turn even more people away from having an interest in politics and from voting.

But I’m going to keep at it, because I suspect this is a part of the Ross/Lusk plan (I don’t know how involved Lusk is but to me this has his modus operandi and goals written all over it), and I think that needs to be confronted.

It looks like current onslaught may have been planned for some time. It may have began months ago after Plan A, for Ross to be rewarded with helping Bridges win the leadership with extraordinary power, as suggested by Richard Harman at Politik:

POLITIK is independent; no ads, no sponsors and no corporate owners. Instead it relies on subscriptions. That’s why it is a breach of copyright to copy an article. You may, however, share it through email, Facebook or Twitter.

A failed near megalomaniac grab for power appears to be the real reason that Jami Lee Ross fell out with National Leader Simon Bridges.

POLITIK has learned that Ross sought big rewards for his support for Bridges during the National Party leadership contest in February.

POLITIK is independent; no ads, no sponsors and no corporate owners. Instead it relies on subscriptions. That’s why it is a breach of copyright to copy an article. You may, however, share it through email, Facebook or Twitter.

(from http://politik.co.nz/en/content/politics/1452/How-ambition-brought-down-Jami-Lee-Ross-Jami-Lee-Ross-Simon-Bridges-National-Party-National-Party-caucus-suspension.htm)

So when Bridges won, he moved to claim his reward.

POLITIK has learned from multiple party and caucus sources that Ross wanted to be Shadow Leader of the House; Chief Whip and to sit on the front bench.

Along with those posts he also also wanted to be on the party board and to be in charge of party polling. In effect, he would have been a quasi-deputy leader with as much power as the leader himself.

Bridges said no and thus appears to have provoked Ross’s campaign against him.

That was in February. We now know that Ross was recording private conversations with Bridges in May. The recording that Ross has already released has hints of being a set up with the intention of using it later against Bridges.

Ross’ involvement in obtaining and dealing with donations in association with Bridges could feasibly also have been a part of the set up.

Then there was the leak of bridges expenses on August 13. The motive at the time was puzzling as the expenses were due to be released publicly on August 15 anyway. It seemed most likely to be a deliberate attempt to undermine Bridges – not by revealing information that would be made public anyway, but through the act of leaking to demonstrate instability in the National caucus and lack of confidence in Bridges’ leadership.

Following that were the multiple leak inquiries began, and on August 16 a text sent to Bridges, the Speaker and Newshub reporter Tova O’Brien on August 16, in which the anonymous sender (claiming to be a National MP) confessed to the leak and asked for the inquiry to be called off because they said they were at risk due to mental health issues.

This really stirred up speculation and motives, and put a lot of pressure on Bridges who pledged to continue his own inquiry into the leak after the Speaker dropped his inquiry.

Was Ross advising or encouraging Bridges on what to do at this stage? This festered on, until 2 October when Ross and bridges announced that Ross would take leave from Parliament for several months on medical grounds. From Ross’ statement:

Recently I have been dealing with some personal health issues.

There are times in life where you have to put your own health and family first. As a husband and a father I need to do that at this time.

That is why I have asked to have some time off on medical leave for a few months.

He asked for leave ‘for a few months’ to put his ‘own health and family first’. That ended up being two weeks – a remarkably quick recovery.

Parliament resumed from a recess this week. The PWC inquiry organised by Bridges was made public after Bridges and Paula Bennett showed it to Ross. Ross seemed to be remarkably well prepared for what unfolded over the last two days.

The National caucus met too consider Ross’ future in the National Party on Tuesday, but Ross set up a media conference to pre-empt them dumping him by resigning from the Party and from Parliament. He said he would stand for re-election in the by-election as an Independent. He seemed remarkably well prepared.

Ross also made serious allegations against Bridges (and National), and promised revelations.

Yesterday he made sure that media were aware of when he would arrive at a police station to make complaints about Bridges, claiming electoral law corruption.

Ross had promised to release a recording that would prove corrupt practice by Bridges, and he did that after talking to media at length after his visit to then police. It turned was regarded as not a ‘smoking gun’ as promised, and Ross was criticised for over-promising and under-delivering.

But the way things have unfolded this may have been deliberate. It had attracted media attention, and it looks to have been designed to cause disruption and division in the National caucus, and also may have been designed to drive a wedge between National and Chines and Asian supporters, donors and voters.

This could be a strategy to try to win the Botany by-election, where there are a lot of Chinese and Asian voters.

(Ross’ comments in the recording about Chinese and Indians may not have been good for getting their support though).

So this all could be a planned strategy to trash Bridges, trash National support, drive a wedge between National and Chinese financial and electoral support, and to win Botany as an independent.

But is that all? Remember that Lusk seems to be involved.

Back in 2013 from Stuff: Seriously happy to upset the status quo

Mr Lusk refers to himself as a “general strategist”. He is a National Party member, and “sometime volunteer”.

He says he prefers to work for individuals – and only those on the Centre-Right.

However, he saves his most scathing criticism for National: “They are only interested in preserving power for their existing MPs, and do not care about the future beyond this administration.”

He accuses the party of substituting “tenure for talent”.

That could mean talent that Lusk approves of.

“When the National Party came whispering to me that being associated with Cam was bad for my career I told them that Cam’s tenure meant he was too important to drop as a career,” Mr Lusk says.

That talent is somewhat discredited – notably Slater seems to have been largely left out of the loop on the current play.

Mr Lusk is dismissive of the current leadership. “I act for individuals, not the party, which gives me the latitude to do what is best for them and the values we share, not what is best for the current party hierarchy . . . I am far more interested in advancing pragmatic, moderate, Centre-Right policy over the next three decades than I am helping any government cling to power.”

Slater did campaign last year to try to discredit National and have them dumped by voters. He promoted Winston Peters. Slater has largely been a tool of others so may have been encouraged there.

In 2014 (Newshub):  Labour MP Nash wanted own party

3 News has obtained an email showing MP Stuart Nash wanted to set up a rival party with help from a key figure in Nicky Hager’s book.

The email links Mr Nash to Simon Lusk, a notorious right-wing political operative, who usually works with National, is a close ally of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and a key figure in Mr Hager’s book, Dirty Politics.

Nash was in Opposition then. Ross is in Opposition now.

So what is the aim of Ross and Lusk now?

Cripple National? Looks a likely aim. Drive a wedge between National and Chinese and Asian supporters. A possible aim.

Win Chinese and Asian support in Botany? Win Botany is a stated aim.

What then? Is this the beginnings of a plan to get a new party set up? No party has succeeded in getting into Parliament without a current or recent MP. Winning a by-election is an obvious toe on the door. It wouldn’t be difficult to build on that over the next two years ready for the 2020 election.

They might try to lure some National MPs across, so there may be more attempts at division there.

Such a party would be the right of National. Lusk has no doubt been studying the resurgence of right wing parties around the world.

I think there is obviously much more than a campaign of utu against Bridges going on.

Jami-Lee Ross – political history

Jami-lee Ross is political history, just about. He may resign from the National Party before he is dumped. He may do the honourable thing and resign from the Botany electorate, or he might hang on in disgrace until the next election.

There is no way he will be nominated to stand for National again. No other party would want to touch him with a 12.19 metre barge pole. His only option would be to set up his own party, but it’s hard to see voters supporting him.

Ross chose politics as a career. He joined the National Party in 2003, aged 17, and was elected to the Manukau City Council a year later. He worked as an electorate secretary for Maurice Williamson in Pakuranga. After unification he was elected to the Auckland City Council in 2010, but dumped that job just a few months later when selected to stand for National in the vacant Botany electorate.

His selection to stand for National was aided by Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater, who (wearing his paid political mercenary hat) promoted Ross on Whale Oil, and attacked and smeared opponents. I think Ross and Slater later stopped dealing with each other.

Ross was re-elected in the very safe Botany seat later in 2011, in 2014 and in 2017. He rose through the National ranks as Third Whip, Junior Whip and then Senior Whip in 2017. He was promoted to the front bench by Bridges.

Ross is still showing on the National website at #7  and as Botany MP, but with no responsibilities (since he took medical leave). But the View Website link redirects to a party sign up page.

I must admit I never liked Ross. He came across as smarmy and shifty looking – his look reminded me of a 1930s US gangster.

Ross has stuffed up big time now. It is just a matter of when he leaves Parliament, and it is unlikely he will ever return given his recent history. He will also struggle to get anywhere in local body politics.

Some people who choose politics as a career from a young age do well – take Jacinda Ardern for example. also Nikki Kaye (she started a bit older). And Chloe Swarbrick looks to have good prospects. So it isn’t generally a bad thing for people to become career politicians. Others, like Todd Barclay, quickly crash and burn.

Ross became a local body councillor at age 18, and an MP at age 26. He rose steadily in the National ranks. But at 33 he has failed badly.

He actually helped Bridges win the leadership earlier this year, but according to his tweets yesterday: “Some months ago I fell out with Simon. I have internally been questioning leadership decisions he was making”.

It now seems very likely that he started deliberately trying to undermine bridges by leaking. The expenses information that was leaked was trivial, about to be officially released anyway. But the act of leaking was serious.

We don’t know whether the subsequent pleading for the inquiry into the leak to be called off because of ‘risks to mental health’ was a genuine albeit poor reaction, or a trumped up ploy.

We do know from yesterday’s actions that Ross is not a fit and proper person to be a Member of Parliament. If he jumps he will be political history, and not flash at that (ironically he looked a bit like a flash harry). If he refuses to budge that will just prolong the period until he is dumped by National as a candidate and becomes an unemployed politician.

 

Botany by-election $100,000+

An elected member was sworn in at the Howick Local Board’s inaugural meeting on November 3, but stormed out and resigned moments later after missing out on being made chairwoman.

This means a by-election will be needed and will cost at least $100,000.

Eastern Courier: Botany by-election expected to cost more than $100,000

Lucy Schwaner was sworn in at the Howick Local Board’s inaugural meeting on November 3, but stormed out and resigned moments later after missing out on being made chairwoman.

Schwaner, the wife of Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, then took out a full-page ad in the local Eastern Courier newspaper attacking the board’s incumbent chairman David Collings.

Auckland Council said on Thursday that a by-election to fill Schwaner’s seat, in the Botany subdivision of the local board, was expected to cost more than $100,000.

A very expensive hissy fit.

Schwaner issued a statement on Thursday morning, saying she stands by her reasons for resigning. 

“It’s unfortunate there is a cost for appointing a replacement member of the Howick Local Board,” she says.

“However, the cost to the community is far greater if the Howick Local Board were allowed to continue unchecked and without its deep problems or poor leadership highlighted for the public.

“Leaving the Howick Local Board was the most honourable course of action, given I have no confidence in the leadership of David Collings. “

I don’t think it looks honourable at all – what about honouring the democratic process?

She ironically refers to ‘poor leadership’ – cutting and running is not exactly doing anything to keep a check on the local board.

Schwaner noted that Mike Turinsky was the highest-ranked unsuccessful candidate in the local board election.

The cost of a by-election could be avoided if other groups decided not to put a candidate forward and allowed Turinsky to fill the vacancy unchallenged, she said.

However, the council said there was no alternative under the Local Electoral Act but to run a by-election.

If Schwaner ever stands for election again voters should be very wary of her commitment.