'We were best buddies': Simon Bridges promised redemption for Jami-Lee Ross if he went quietly

More exclusive details from the recording will be revealed on Newshub live at 6pm.

Simon Bridges promised redemption and hinted at a possible promotion for Jami-Lee Ross if he agreed to take extended leave from Parliament, new audio reveals.

A secretly recorded conversation involving Mr Bridges, Mr Ross and Paula Bennett was leaked to The AM Show on Monday.

During the 19-minute clip, recorded on October 2, the National Party leader and deputy leader can be heard trying to convince Mr Ross to take several months of leave.

He is resistant, saying being isolated for so long will be detrimental to his mental health.

"Why are you so adamant on getting rid of me for four-and-a-half months?" he asks.

Ms Bennett says the extended leave is proportional to "the seriousness of what you've done".

"You haven't even told me what I've supposedly done," Mr Ross responds. "The stuff around harassing staff, which I reject, that is the worst - and I don't even know what that is."

"Well you do know what the disloyalty stuff is, that's been put to you really clearly - and if that was put to caucus, that would be enough," Ms Bennett replies.

Both Mr Bridges and Ms Bennett say that taking just a month or two off wouldn't be enough. Mr Bridges says he "can't stop this" and that he wants Mr Ross to be able to have some control over the situation.

Mr Ross apologises to Mr Bridges for unspecified comments he'd made the previous Wednesday.

"I didn't mean that, mate. We were such best f**king buddies six months ago. How did we get this bad?"

Mr Bridges promises that if Mr Ross takes the leave, he will never mention what they discussed on Wednesday again.

"It's a shame that it's come to this and believe you me, I didn't want to. I'm sure if you'd thought things through, you wouldn't want this either."

Mr Bridges says Mr Ross "obviously has a number of reasons" for taking leave, and could cite either health or family reasons. Mr Ross opts for health, which Ms Bennett says has the advantage that "everyone will back off you", including the media.

Mr Ross asks that the length of his leave not be specified in the press statement, to which Mr Bridges replies that he's happy to play with the wording but is adamant that Mr Ross will not be back before the end of the year.

Mr Ross then becomes emotional as he talks directly to his party leader.

"Six months ago was so good," he tells Mr Bridges. "I believed in you and backed you to the hilt. I'm sorry that we're here - it's all shit."

Mr Bridges thanks him for the apology, saying he too is sad at how things have turned out. He also hints that if Mr Ross complies and takes the rest of the year off, a promotion might be on the cards when he returns.

"If you take the help you need over the next few months you can come back," he says.

"You shouldn't see this as any kind of end. There is a long history of Members of Parliament who have done far crazier stuff than you have, who have come back and been very senior ministers."

He promises Mr Ross he'll "get through this", and says he'll have his back both in public and "behind the scenes".

Mr Ross begs the other two to be careful, and Ms Bennett promises "we're gonna back you mate".


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