Judith Collins admits National needs to reassess candidate selection process after Jake Bezzant allegations

Bezzant ran in the Upper Harbour electorate in 2020.
Bezzant ran in the Upper Harbour electorate in 2020. Photo credit: Facebook

National leader Judith Collins says her party needs to reassess its candidate selection process after allegations emerged around Jake Bezzant this week.

Bezzant, who ran in the Upper Harbour electorate in 2020, resigned from the party on Tuesday night after his ex-girlfriend alleged he had been posing as her on social media and engaging in inappropriate behaviour.

Speaking to Peter Williams on Magic Talk on Thursday, Collins said Bezzant was "relatively unknown" to many people in the party before his selection and she had "no choice really" about backing him.

"He was a candidate and we were in an election campaign," Collins told Williams.

"And he had tremendous support from the people who had selected him as their candidate, so you deal with what you have to deal with."

The allegations against Bezzant came out on the podcast 'Whips, Chains and Brains', which was released on Spotify on May 31.

Speaking on the podcast, one of the hosts, Tarryn, said she was in a relationship with Bezzant and that he "used to impersonate me online".

"[He] would make Snapchats and dating sites and things and would engage in, like, online sex as me and would send nude images and videos of me," she said.

"That was happening throughout the last two-and-a-half years but then we obviously split up and then I found out in the last few weeks that he's still doing it, so we kind of want to talk about it."

When challenged by Williams about National's record of candidates who had resigned after allegations of inappropriate behaviour - such as Andrew Falloon, Hamish Walker and Aaron Gilmore - Collins admitted the party needed to reassess its selection process. 

"I think it's simply that people came in on a certain wave, and that's why the selection process is actually one of the things that was subject to the review that we've undergone and the selection process is one which the party has actually turned its mind to," Collins said. 

"And of course these are historic, they are historic enough that we know that we've got to do better on those selections and that's what the party is working on."

She said the party had "taken onboard" the lessons learnt and admitted more due diligence was needed when undertaking reference checks of potential candidates.

"A lot more work has to go into that."

In the case of Bezzant, Collins said it would have been very hard for the party to have known about the allegations before he was selected.

"It's very difficult," she said. "People say things like why don't you know about this person and these, I don't know, sexual behaviours - well how the hell would most of us know about this stuff?

"I've been educated in the last day about some of these things, I've been thinking this is something I don't want to know about - I do not want to know about it."

When asked by Newshub earlier this week about the allegations Bezzant said in a statement there were "two sides to every story".

"Personal relationship break ups sometimes get messy," he said.

"There is more than just her and I involved so I am not going to discuss it. This needs to be seen in the context of a relationship break-up."