Jacinda Ardern will be writing a Christmas card to Judith Collins and Simon Bridges to thank them for their "unswerving support of the Labour Party", a political commentator has claimed, after the latest rip in the National Party's tenuous unity.
Collins late on Wednesday night demoted Bridges and stripped him of his portfolios, citing "comments made by Mr Bridges to a female caucus colleague" five years ago, reported to be National MP Jacqui Dean. Newshub understands what Bridges allegedly said is believed to be highly sexual comments about conception, which Collins claims caused "ongoing distress".
The move comes after yet another poll showed Collins tanking in the polls, dragging National down with her, and speculation former leader Bridges could be readying for a challenge.
"What a mess," political commentator Josie Pagani told The AM Show on Thursday. "It's a serious allegation, it has to be taken seriously. We don't know the details - we don't know what Simon Bridges said yet. But it is just an allegation at this stage - we haven't heard Simon Bridges' defence, and he has a right to defend himself.
"But all of that aside, it's just a mess. The story doesn't really stack up, doesn't it? It feels like dirty politics… this happened five years ago."
The alleged comment reportedly sparked a complaint at the time, when Sir Bill English was leader, prompting an apology from Bridges. Collins said she had the backing of National board chair Peter Goodfellow in demoting Bridges, who has helmed the party from behind the scenes since 2009.
Newsroom suggested Goodfellow might have approved Bridges' sacking as a favour to Collins, whose support saw him reelected as president earlier this year despite a string of mishaps.
"Suddenly five years later he's not satisfied with the investigation and it all has to be unearthed again?" said Pagani.
"The story just doesn't stack up, does it? And the timing of it - when everybody knew Simon Bridges was smirking from the sidelines, about to roll Judith Collins before Christmas or after? What a disaster for the National Party."
She said Goodfellow "seems to be this lurking character behind every disaster in the National Party in the last few years" and needs to go for the party's sake.
"There is going to be a lot of fallout from today - people will be gone, there will be winners and losers."
As for whether Bridges or Collins emerges with their political career in tact, Pagani thinks it will come down to just how bad the alleged comment was.
"If it turns out to be a really unpleasant, sleazy comment, no matter what the story is it's going to be really hard for Simon Bridges. If it isn't… then it looks like Crusher Collins is just panicking. Crusher Collins panicking doesn't look good for National. It looks cynical, it looks desperate.
"There's one winner in this - it will be Jacinda and the Labour Party, who are busy writing a Christmas card thanking Judith and Simon for their unswerving support of the Labour Party."
National's caucus will meet Thursday morning.