Newshub can reveal allegations that a senior National Party figure attempted to derail one of the Auckland Central candidates' nominations with a peculiar midnight phone call to talkback radio pretending to be someone he's not.
Roger Bridge is a big deal in the National Party. A Queen's honour recipient, he's on the party's board as its Canterbury representative. But Newshub has been told he has a secret alter ego, sometimes going by 'Merv'.
'Merv' called into Marcus Lush's talkback show last Monday just before midnight.
Although Bridge denies it was him, several National Party sources, including MPs, have listened to the audio and told Newshub 'Merv' and Roger Bridge are one in the same.
"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' was confused that Nuwanthie 'Nuwi' Samarakone was National's Manurewa candidate but was also pitching to stand in Auckland Central to replace Nikki Kaye who resigned from politics last month.
"She's already standing in Manurewa and I was ready to vote for her but now I understand she's going over to Auckland Central - I'm that confused."
He was seeding doubt about her candidacy and casually dropped in a line about a photograph.
"I'm that confused and then I have this photograph come through today."
An image of Somarakone in a leotard had been doing the rounds on social media, as well as false rumours that she was a stripper, thought to be part of a smear campaign headed by some in National - her own party - who didn't back her.
Newshub approached Bridge outside Parliament and 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."
Somarakone has hired high-profile QC Julian Miles to threaten urgent legal action against National Party members she believes subjected her to a damaging, malicious and untrue campaign.
National Party leader Judith Collins wasn't at all interested in talking about the Auckland Central selection process when Newshub asked last week.
"I think that the party has dealt with that issue, thank you," she said at the time.
Newshub asked what it says about the National Party that there are people seeking to undermine its own candidates.
"It means that the party has dealt with it," Collins replied.
Asked how it had been dealt with, Collins added, "It's sorted."
Collins was so keen to avoid any chat about it, she even relieved herself of the job she's long coveted and finally got.
"I'm not the leader of the party itself - I'm the leader of the National Party's parliamentary wing," she said.
Collins wouldn't say if the people who were seeking to undermine Samarakone had been spoken to directly.
"You'll have to talk to them."
The National Party will reveal its Auckland Central candidate on Monday evening.