National Party MP Jacqui Dean says she was caught up in a “political power play” last week, after her complaint about a years-old Simon Bridges comment led to the ousting of leader Judith Collins.
Dean, in a brief statement posted to Facebook on Monday afternoon, said it was “not my intention for past issues to be thrust into the spotlight as they were”, referring to her complaint about Bridges that led to his attempted demotion by Collins.
The Waitaki MP was on Thursday due to front a media conference with Collins after she had again taken issue with comments made by Bridges at a party event five years earlier – understood to be a discussion about the type of sex that might conceive a girl.
Collins had publicly demoted Bridges over the complaint. However, National MPs who were blindsided by the move voted Collins out of the leadership, and Dean has since offered little comment on the saga, requesting her privacy be respected.
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“I took no pleasure in being caught up in what was a political power-play that took attention away from the important issues of the day,” she said in the statement.
“I went into politics to advocate strongly on behalf of the people, communities and businesses of this electorate and I will continue to focus on doing just that.”
The National Party has yet to appoint a new leader after Thursday’s leadership spill. A caucus meeting will be held on Tuesday for MPs to decide.
Both Bridges and new National MP and former Air NZ chief executive Chris Luxon were understood to have support within the party’s caucus – however Bridges was the only candidate to confirm he wanted the job.
Collins had in recent weeks been facing questions about her grip on the party leadership as speculation mounted that Bridges was considering launching a coup – speculation he did little to quash.
Last week’s demotion of Bridges was immediately seen as a politically-motivated move. Collins did not advise the party caucus, and said the National Party board supported the move – something the board later disputed.
Dean, who had been chair of Parliament’s culture committee since April, came to Collins with her complaint about Bridges on Tuesday, November 16. Bridges had apologised to Dean at the time, but Dean was said to be again concerned about the incident, in light of conducting reviews of parliamentary culture.
Backers of Collins have said Dean had agreed with Collins about how to handle the complaint, including going public.