Judith Collins reprimands senior National Party board member who used 'Merv' alias to undermine Auckland Central candidate

Judith Collins has reprimanded the senior National Party board member who made a bizarre midnight call to talkback radio using the alias 'Merv'.

'Merv' - AKA Roger Bridge - initially denied making the call which attempted to undermine one of his party's own candidates, but Newshub understands it was made from his number. 

After a screwy and stalled process, the National Party finally has a stake in the ground in Auckland Central, with 30-year-old Emma Mellow taking out the candidacy late on Monday night. 

But it's late-night behaviour of a different kind that's overshadowing her win. 

'Merv' from Manurewa tried to undermine Mellow's main competition for the nomination, Nuwi Somarakone, with a midnight call to Marcus Lush's talkback radio last week. 

"Look I'm in Manurewa and I'm a bit confused because there's billboards all over the place with this Nuwi girl," Merv told the talkback radio show. 

Merv said he was confused that Samarakone was National's Manurewa candidate, but was also pitching to stand in Auckland Central. 

But Merv wasn't all he seemed, sounding suspiciously like the National Party's Canterbury board member Roger Bridge.  

Newshub approached Bridge outside Parliament, but he insisted it wasn't him who called up Marcus Lush's show and pretended to be Merv. 

"Sorry, Merv? No. Roger Bridge," he said, when asked if 'Merv' is his alter ego. "It wasn't me."

If that's the case it seems somehow Merv got hold of his phone, because Newshub understands Merv's talkback call came from Roger's number. 

Collins promised National would run a squeaky-clean campaign this election.

"It's not what we would do, it's not something I approve of and it's a matter for the party to deal with," she said on Tuesday. "Look, it's not something I agree with."

Collins said it "wouldn't be appropriate" for Bridge to offer his resignation to her. 

"I'm the leader of the parliamentary wing."

But National Party President Peter Goodfellow refused to be interviewed.

Collins said the behaviour is not acceptable.

"I've made it very plain that it is not acceptable but that is not a matter for me, thank you."

The three leading candidates in Auckland Central are now just pleased to be moving on from the ugly politics.

Green Party candidate Chloe Swarbrick laughed when Newshub asked if she had the chance to see the story on Merv which aired on Monday night

The Green MP said she "absolutely" thought there were elements of sexism, ageism and racism in the campaign. 

Labour's candidate Helen White said the National Party could have dealt with the selection process better. 

"I don't think the National Party dealt with the dirty politics thing when it happened," she told Newshub. "It was a lot of snickering and not really dealing with it. It's really sad."

Newshub asked Mellow if she felt there was a degree of sexism, ageism and racism in the campaign. 

"Look, the process is behind us," she said. "I'm a young 30-year-old woman that's been selected and I'm really proud the National Party backed me."

But there was a good deal of backstabbing too. 

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien

It took them all day but we finally got a statement through and the National Party is taking action.

National Party President Peter Goodfellow says he's aware of the allegations raised about Roger Bridge in our story.

The National Party board will be meeting to consider the matter. It sounds like it's being treated as a matter of urgency, likely within the next 24 hours. 

That is all the National Party is willing to say - refusing to comment on whether Roger Bridge has offered his resignation.