Judith Collins denies forcing Nick Smith's resignation to bring in political ally

Opposition leader Judith Collins is denying allegations she forced veteran MP Nick Smith to retire from Parliament so she could replace him with a political ally. 

Newshub understands people close to Smith believe that following a call with Collins, the outgoing MP was under the impression that political editor Tova O'Brien was about to break a story that would force his resignation - but Newshub had no such story.  

On Thursday next week, Smith will return to Parliament for one last speech after 30 years in politics.

The National MP has been subject to an employment investigation regarding a verbal altercation with a young staffer last year.

Newshub understands the altercation in question was very brief - after which both sides apologised. 

Collins had briefed her caucus that an MP was about to be the subject of a leaked scandal and on Friday, Smith was told it was him.

Newshub has been told the MP was under the impression that O'Brien was preparing to run a story about him on Tuesday - a story that didn't exist. 

Collins' denies telling Smith the story was imminent.

"I'm not saying that, am I? I'm saying very clearly that I'm not discussing the private details of any conversations I have with MPs," she said. 

It wasn't just Newshub without the story - no one had the leak.

With Smith leaving, Collins' close friend Harete Hipango comes in on the list - but Collins denies she orchestrated it.

"I think it's a very nasty way to couch things," she said.

The Smith scandal gave way to another - allegations emerged on Wednesday that former National candidate Jake Bezzant was impersonating ex-partners online, and had shared intimate images of one.

Collins said this was "disgraceful". 

This time last year, concerns were raised about exaggerations Bezzant made on his CV.

On Friday, there have been calls for National Party President Peter Goodfellow to resign after Newshub revealed he shut down concerns about Bezzant, despite the leadership and campaign team wanting him axed as a candidate.

Collins is still expressing confidence in Goodfellow, saying it's "a tough job" - and hers isn't all that easy at the moment either.