National MP Jacqui Dean at centre of Judith Collins' demotion of Simon Bridges speaks out

The National MP at the centre of Simon Bridges' demotion by former leader Judith Collins has spoken out about being "caught up in a political power-play". 

Jacqui Dean, MP for Waitaki, said in a Facebook post on Monday it was not her intention for "past issues to be thrust into the spotlight as they were" last week.

"Many of you will be well aware of the events that have taken place over what has been a long and brutal week in politics," she wrote. 

"I took no pleasure in being caught up in what was a political power-play that took attention away from the important issues of the day."

Dean was referring to former National leader Judith Collins sending out a shock media release last Wednesday night announcing that Simon Bridges had been demoted over an allegation of "serious misconduct".

"The case relates to comments made by Mr Bridges to a female caucus colleague at a function a number of years ago," Collins said in the statement issued at 9:20pm. 

"Having been made aware of the seriousness of the complaint for the first time and the ongoing distress this has caused the complainant, I was left with no option but to immediately demote Simon Bridges and relieve him of his portfolio responsibilities."

It turned out it was Jacqui Dean who, about five years ago, complained to then-Deputy Prime Minister Bill English about comments Bridges made in front of her and other colleagues.

"At the time there was an apology, but subsequently it has continued to play on my mind and with the recent reviews that have occurred in Parliament the feelings have been brought back up," Dean said in a statement on Thursday. 

"What matters to me is that all of us have a clear understanding of what behaviour we should expect in a modern workplace environment. Simon and I have spoken a number of times over the past few hours and he has reiterated his apology."

Dean said on Monday she wanted to move on. 

"I went into politics to advocate strongly on behalf of the people, communities and businesses of this electorate and I will continue to focus on doing just that."

Dean told the Otago Daily Times she informed Collins weeks ago about the comments Bridges made. 

Collins told Newshub it was a "matter of principle".

"Every woman and every man should feel safe in the workplace and what is really important is that you don't ignore allegations by sweeping them under the carpet."

Bridges said on Thursday it was "desperate" of Collins to release the statement about him. Later that day, Collins was voted out as leader by the National Party caucus in a vote of no confidence over the way she handled the situation. 

Bridges said he'd already apologised to Dean. 

"Five or six years ago, the National Party caucus had a full day at Premier House. At lunchtime I was out talking with a number of members of Parliament and at some point Jacqui Dean joined that," he told reporters. 

"We discussed our wives, our children; I can remember talking about the fact I had two boys and I wanted a girl and I engaged in some old wives' tales about that and how to have a girl and I entirely accept and am regretful of that day, because I acknowledge that some of what I said was clearly inappropriate.

"Sometime after that, Bill English - who at that time was Deputy Prime Minister - called me into his office and discussed this. He made clear that Jacqui Dean was deeply offended by what had been said. I was unaware of that but very regretful and apologised for that and learned a valuable lesson at that time. 

"I then went and apologised fulsomely to Jacqui Dean and she accepted that apology. I regret what I said. I wasn't aware of its impact on Jacqui."

Deputy leader Shane Reti was made interim leader while the National Party caucus decides on a new permanent leader. An announcement is expected on Tuesday. 

Newshub revealed Bridges is running, and other likely contenders include former Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon, Mark Mitchell and Chris Bishop.