The ultimate guide to all the players in the Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges showdown

National is in crisis, as rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross appears set on causing as much damage as possible in a scandal that's rocked New Zealand and made headlines overseas.

The week began with The AM Show host Duncan Garner confronting opposition leader Simon Bridges with leaked donation information, included Mr Ross' expulsion from the party and ended in accusations of abuse and mud-slinging of epic proportions.

If you're lost, here's a handy timeline of events, starting with the August reveal by Newshub of Simon Bridges' expenses during his roadshow.

Here are the main players in the continuing saga.

Simon Bridges - National Party leader.
Simon Bridges - National Party leader. Photo credit: Newshub

Simon Bridges - leader of the National Party

A leak to Newshub journalist Tova O'Brien in August showed Mr Bridges spent $113,000 in taxpayer money on limos and hotels in three months. 

Mr Bridges ordered an investigation into who leaked his travel expenses, a move that he has been criticised for.

In early October when Mr Ross took leave from Parliament over personal health issues, Mr Bridges described them as "embarrassing".

Mr Bridges' high-profile fallout with former MP Jami-Lee Ross has culminated in him being accused of electoral finance violations.

Rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross.
Rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross. Photo credit: Getty Images

Jami-Lee Ross - former National MP for Botany

Mr Ross began his career in politics as a Manukau City Councillor when he was 18 years old. He was elected as an MP at age 25.

He was a National Party whip in Parliament and has been on the business, transport and infrastructure select committees.

In October, Mr Ross stood down from his roles due to health issues.

Minutes before his leader was to address media and out Mr Ross as the alleged leaker of his expenses, Mr Ross sent a series of tweets accusing Mr Bridges of falsely pinning blame on him.

Mr Ross addressed media for more than an hour earlier this week, claiming Mr Bridges directed him to split up a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman into smaller amounts. He said he had recordings of conversations with Mr Bridges, as well as photographs, to back up his claims. He has since gone to police with his allegations. Mr Ross resigned as a National MP, and said he will stand as an independent in the Botany by-election. Meanwhile, the National Party caucus unanimously voted to expel him.

Mr Ross accused Mr Bridges and National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett of a smear campaign against him, saying they accused him of harassing four women. Ms Bennett said there had been no official complaints of harassment against Mr Ross, but an explosive report by Newsroom's Melanie Reid claimed four women have reportedly accused Mr Ross of being a narcissist who used "brutal sex" to "dig dirt" on others. 

National deputy leader Paula Bennett.
National deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo credit: Newshub

Paula Bennett - National Party deputy leader

Mr Ross has accused Ms Bennett and Mr Bridges of a smear campaign, saying they accused him of harassing four women. Ms Bennett confirmed there were no official complaints of harassment against Mr Ross, but said: "What was put out to him was inappropriate behaviour that is unacceptable from a married Member of Parliament."

Ms Bennett said Mr Bridges did talk to a Chinese businessman at the centre of the corruption allegations against the National Party. However, she insisted Mr Bridges had done nothing wrong.

Ms Bennett has denied knowing who the Cathedral Club was.

National MP for Rotorua - Todd McClay.
National MP for Rotorua - Todd McClay. Photo credit: Reuters

Todd McClay - National MP for Rotorua

Mr Ross alleged Rotorua MP Todd McClay filed a false electoral return over a $100,000 donation. He said Mr McClay knew of the donation and had witnessed the "misleading electoral return".

However, Mr McClay has called the allegations "baseless" and said he backed Mr Bridges "100 percent."

Ms Pugh said Mr Bridges apologised to her, and she accepted his apology.
Ms Pugh said Mr Bridges apologised to her, and she accepted his apology. Photo credit: Facebook

Maureen Pugh - National list MP

The little-known National MP, 54th on the party list, was thrust into the spotlight on Wednesday when Mr Ross released a recording of a conversation he had with Mr Bridges in June.

In the recording Mr Bridges makes unkind remarks about several of his MPs, including Chris Finlayson and David Carter, and doesn't disagree with Mr Ross' criticism of Nicky Wagner.

His harshest words were about Ms Pugh: "Maureen Pugh is f**king useless."

Ms Pugh is National's associate spokesperson for children. She served as Mayor of the Westland District for nine years and was the first female Mayor elected on the West Coast.

Ms Pugh said Mr Bridges apologised to her, and she accepted his apology

Maureen Pugh's mum

June Brigg came to her daughter's defence following a leaked phone recording where Simon Bridges called the National MP "f**king useless". 

She says her daughter is not useless at all, and works incredibly hard for the National Party.

"I would like to say something about Simon Bridges and the remark he made about my daughter Maureen Pugh," she wrote in an email to The AM Show.

"He really must be a dumb-arse as my daughter is a hard worker for National, she got more votes for them than any other [National Party member] on the West Coast, and to call her useless is insulting and a lie.

"As far as I'm concerned, he can go suck eggs and he'll never get our vote as long as he's in power."

National Party president Peter Goodfellow.
National Party president Peter Goodfellow. Photo credit: Newshub

Peter Goodfellow - National Party president

Mr Goodfellow reportedly signed a confidentiality agreement with a woman after she complained about Jami-lee Ross' behaviour.

The woman reportedly told Mr Goodfellow she felt threatened by Mr Ross' "threatening and bullying behaviour".

Political strategist Simon Lusk.
Political strategist Simon Lusk. Photo credit: Newshub

Simon Lusk - political strategist

Mr Lusk is a political strategist and a key figure in Nicky Hager's book, Dirty Politics.

Mr Ross admitted during his media stand-up this week that he had spoken with Mr Lusk. He said Mr Lusk, who helped his strategy to win the Botany by-election in 2011, was a friend and someone he had known for a long time. Mr Bridges says Mr Ross has no friends in Parliament, but he does have connections with "spin doctors" like Simon Lusk.

Auckland investor Aaron Bhatnagar.
Auckland investor Aaron Bhatnagar. Photo credit: Facebook

Aaron Bhatnagar - former Auckland City Councillor

An Auckland investor who identified himself as the mystery $10,000 'Cathedral Club' donor.

The donation became controversial after Mr Ross claimed it was among several he's accused Mr Bridges of corruptly handling. Mr Bridges denies any wrongdoing, and says that donation and another for $14,000 were mistakenly attributed to his personal electoral return, rather than the National Party itself.

Why the name Cathedral Club was used instead of Mr Bhatnagar's is unknown, but Mr Bhatnagar explained what the club was: "Cathedral Club was an informal pay-your-own-way dinner club that started in 2001, comprised of a small group of Young Nats and old friends from university days."

Senior National Party MP, Judith Collins.
Senior National Party MP, Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

Judith Collins - National MP for Papakura

Senior National Party MP and a former rival for the leadership, Ms Collins in August told The AM Show she's absolutely sure it wasn't someone from the National Party who leaked Mr Bridges' travel expenses.

Following the release of a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report which pointed to Mr Ross as the "most likely culprit" to have leaked expenses, Ms Collins said she "fully supported" Mr Bridges over the matter.

Ms Collins said without the inquiry into who leaked Mr Bridges' expenses, they would never have known about Mr Ross' alleged activities.

On The AM Show on Friday, Ms Collins said: "I'm very loyal to the caucus and the NZ National Party".

Zhang Yikun with Governor-General of New Zealand, Patsy Reddy.
Zhang Yikun with Governor-General of New Zealand, Patsy Reddy. Photo credit: Newshub

Zhang Yikun - businessman 

A successful Auckland businessman who owns multiple companies involved in land development, construction and real estate. Mr Ross outed Mr Zhang as the man behind a $100,000 donation to the National Party. Mr Zhang was nominated for the Order of Merit, an honour he received this year.

Greg Hamilton - National Party general manager

Mr Ross released text messages in which he discussed the now-infamous $100,000 donation with Mr Hamilton. National Party president Peter Goodfellow released the same text messages minutes after Ross, saying there had not been a $100,000 donation. He said the Botany electorate of the National Party received eight donations, and Mr Ross declared eight donations to the party.

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell.
Rodney MP Mark Mitchell. Photo credit: The Nation

Mark Mitchell - National MP for Rodney

Rodney MP and former rival for National Party leadership. Mr Ross named Mr Mitchell, alongside fellow leadership candidates Amy Adams and Ms Collins, as people who would be more "honest and capable" than Bridges at running the National Party.

In a show of solidarity, Mr Mitchell, Ms Adams, Ms Collins and Ms Bennett flanked Mr Bridges during his press conference where he announced that the National Party caucus had unanimously voted to expel Mr Ross.

National's finance spokesperson and National MP for Selwyn.
National's finance spokesperson and National MP for Selwyn. Photo credit: Newshub

Amy Adams - National MP for Selwyn

National's finance spokesperson and a former contender for leadership of the party.

During a press conference where Mr Bridges slammed Mr Ross for "lying, leaking and lashing out", he was flanked by the main likely contenders in any leadership race, including Judith Collins, Amy Adams, Mark Mitchell and Paula Bennett.

Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters.
Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters. Photo credit: Newshub

Winston Peters - Deputy Prime Minister

Veteran politician Winston Peters says of the National Party saga, he has "never seen a meltdown like this in my time in politics".

Hours after Mr Ross was expelled from the National Party, Mr Peters told reporters to "listen up" as he played a YouTube clip on his phone of the theme song of the 1970 film Kelly's Heroes.

Its theme song is 'Burning Bridges', by the Mike Curb Congregation.

Newshub.

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