‘The National Party have deserted the field’: David Seymour on today’s political turmoil

David Seymour wants New Zealand to have a stronger opposition party – and he doesn’t think that National has been up to scratch.

During his visit to Tauranga today, Seymour, the Act Party leader, weighed in on the removal of Judith Collins as National leader this afternoon.

“It’s a bit disappointing. The Government is doing terrible things around Covid, crime, cost of living, and the National Party have deserted the field leaving Act to take on the Government all by ourselves.

“We relish the challenge, and we think we’re up to it.”

Seymour was concerned what the lack of stability in the opposition to the Government could mean for New Zealand politically.

“People around the world are worried about democracy. They want functional parties to uphold democracy. That’s what we’re trying to deliver.”

Seymour felt the accusations against Bridges were mishandled.

“Any accusation of sexual harassment is very serious. If you lead an organisation, you’ve got an obligation to step back, put professionals in charge, do an inquiry, and decide what, if anything, you have to do. Anyone who runs a business now can find themselves with that obligation – you’ve gotta do it properly.

“You certainly shouldn’t be misusing allegations of sexual harassment as those are very serious accusations that do a lot of harm to people.”

When asked if he was referring to Collins, Seymour was not specific.

“I don’t know what the facts of it are.

“My point is that if you have an issue like that, what a leader should do is take a step back and put professionals in place.”

Seymour said that Parliament should be addressing the problems facing the people, rather than the problems among themselves.

“It [politics] is a vocation to serve, rather than punditry.”

Collins confirmed in a tweet today she had lost the leadership – and conceded she knew this was a risk by addressing the Bridges issue.

“It has taken huge stamina and resolve, and has been particularly difficult because of a variety of factors. I knew when I was confided in by a female colleague regarding her allegation of serious misconduct against a senior colleague, that I would likely lose the leadership by taking the matter so seriously.

“If I hadn’t, then I felt that I wouldn’t deserve the role. I didn’t ask for the allegation to be given to me. I am proud of the support I received from Dr Shane Reti, a man of principle, and I will continue to advocate, not only for Papakura, but for those who have no voice.”

As Collins left Parliament she said: “It is a really hard job and I have done everything I possibly could”, and stepped into a waiting taxi.

Asked if she had made a “principled” move, Collins replied: “Absolutely”.

Collins said she was feeling “very good, greatly relieved”. Asked if she regretted her actions, she replied: “Never”.

There has been speculation from pundits that National’s struggles could benefit Seymour’s party. On whether or not this could be the time for Act to ascend further up the political ladder, Seymour refused to speculate.

“People have forecast changes in the political landscape since the beginning of the political landscape.

“All I know is that we try to hear people’s concerns, and try to reflect the wishes of the people who are actually paying the bills.”

National leadership change

National MPs will elect a new leader on Tuesday after a bruising caucus session dumpedCollins on what has been described as “not our best day” for the party.

Former leader Simon Bridges has revealed he is considering seeking a return to the role – saying National under Collins “haven’t done a good enough job”.

Collins was removed in a vote of no confidence today – punished by her colleagues just 12 hours after a hamfisted attempt to discipline Bridges.

It is understood Mark Mitchell and Christopher Luxon are the candidates to replace her, with a caucus vote on Tuesday to decide the winner.

In the meantime, current deputy Shane Reti is interim leader. The deputy leader role will remain vacant for now.

Bridges said he would consider over the next few days whether to seek to reclaim the leadership.

Recent polling for the National Party was poor and the buck stopped with the leader.

“We haven’t done a good enough job,” Bridges said of the party’s approach to major issues such as inflation.

He said compared to the Bridges of a few years ago, he was today “an older, possibly wiser guy”.

“I do think I have a sense of what New Zealand needs at this time,” Bridges added.

Asked if Collins should stand at the next election, Bridges said: “I made it clear this morning that I didn’t have confidence with Judith Collins”.

Bridges said he was “euphemistically, very unhappy” with Collins’ press statement last night.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said when asked if he was the party’s heir apparent.

Bridges said he was trying to be upfront about his aspirations.

“I could work with various coalition partners if that was the privilege National had.

“I do think I’ve learned from it and I do know the toll it takes, and I do know National’s building off a very low base,” Bridges said when asked about the responsibilities of party leadership.

Bridges, like Reti, was taciturn when asked about the nature of caucus discussions, and would keep private what he called private conversations.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to go through the minute details,” he said when asked about Collins dredging up his years-old remarks.

Bridges said as a former lawyer he was appalled with the lack of due process and natural justice that characterised Collins’ demotion of him last night.

Bridges told reporters after the caucus meeting that the comment at thecentre of allegations against him was made several years ago. MP Jacqui Dean was in earshot when he had repeated “old wives’ tales” about how people could conceive girls.

“Some time after Bill English, who at the time was Deputy Prime Minister, called me into his office to discuss this,” Bridges said.

“I was very regretful and apologised.”

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