National Party leader Judith Collins has demoted Simon Bridges over alleged misconduct in relation to comments he made to a female colleague at a function a number of years ago.
Bridges had been rumoured to be rallying support to overthrow Collins as leader. Speculation had escalated to the point the discussion in the media had centred around which side of Christmas the coup might occur.
Collins made the shock announcement on Wednesday night, saying the party wouldn't tolerate harassment and intimidation under her leadership.
Collins released the following statement:
"This evening, with unanimous support of the board of the National Party, Simon Bridges, Member for Tauranga, has been demoted and relieved of his portfolio responsibilities.
"The decision follows an allegation of serious misconduct relating to Simon Bridges’ interaction with a caucus colleague.
"The case relates to comments made by Mr Bridges to a female caucus colleague at a function a number of years ago.
"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.
"This decision has not been made lightly. However, the seriousness of the situation demands a swift and decisive response.
"Under my leadership, the National Party will not tolerate harassment and intimidation of any person.
"Members of Parliament and staff should be able to conduct their duties at all times without feeling unsafe or intimidated, and all deserve to be treated with absolute respect by their colleagues in all situations."