Colin Craig denies sexual harassment, explicit texts, but admits there was a kiss
Former Conservative leader Colin Craig has admitted kissing his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor but says it was consensual.
Craig is giving evidence for a second day in a defamation proceeding brought against him by Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams.
He has also claimed he knocked back a proposition by MacGregor, who said to him: "I want to be with you, I want to be more than just your press secretary".
Craig said MacGregor made the approach to him on an airplane in September 2014 but he rejected her, saying "not in this lifetime".
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He said four days later MacGregor resigned from the role.
In the High Court at Auckland on Friday, Craig addressed a long list of allegations against him, in what was the 10th day of a trial in front of a jury.
He denied there was ever a "non-consensual incident" between him and MacGregor.
He said he wanted to clear his name from claims made by Williams, including what he said was a "false allegation that I sexually assaulted Rachel by grabbing her by the breasts and forcing her on a bed".
He said that was completely untrue, as was Williams' claim that he sent a text message to MacGregor saying "I slept well because I dreamt that I was between your naked legs".
"I sent no such message, nor did I send any similar message," he said.
Craig said his mobile phone was examined by New Zealand forensics, which looked through 12,000 SMS messages, including deleted messages.
He said 778 messages were between him and MacGregor, as well as Whatsapp messages between the two, which were also viewed by forensics.
At the end of their search he said they found no mention of a message about being between her naked legs.
"There was no such text. That is because I never sent such a text."
'WE DID KISS. IT WAS A BAD MISTAKE'
Giving evidence, Craig addressed allegations that he kissed MacGregor in a non-consensual fashion on election night in 2011.
He admitted that they kissed but said it was consensual.
"We did kiss. It was a bad mistake on my part and I deeply regret it."
He told the court that "it was a hugely damaging accusation" when he was later accused of kissing her in a non-consensual fashion.
He said he had over-stepped the boundary with MacGregor on occasions. However, he never felt that his letters or cards or texts were unwelcome.
The relationship with MacGregor was "mutually affectionate" and a "two-way street", with her sending him affectionate messages in return, he said.
MacGregor, in her evidence earlier this week, labelled Craig "dodgy" and said he was lying in suggesting she was courting him.
She rejected suggestions they had a consensual sexual or romantic relationship and said she "couldn't stand" Craig.
"The thought [of an affair] disgusts me," she said.
In her evidence she said the alleged sexual harassment continued over a long period of time and started off with "shoulder touches" and "comments".
Craig denied those allegations under cross-examination from lawyer Peter McKnight, acting for Jordan Williams.
McKnight asked Craig why MacGregor said he was "dodgy" if their relationship was as good as he suggested.
"It's difficult to me to understand her motives or statements," Craig responded.
"I don't agree with it. I think it's wrong. I think she has a dramatically different view of me now than she had at the time.
"I think she has looked back on events and come up with a certain narrative, or maybe someone else has suggested the narrative to her. She may genuinely believe it, it's difficult to know. All I can say is what she says now is not what she [said] then."
Craig was also grilled on whether he was glad that the ordeal, and personal details, were now being dragged through the courts.
"It's really all about you, isn't it Mr Craig?" McKnight asked.
Craig initially said no but conceded: "obviously part of it is about me, because it's about my reputation. But it's about politics."
He added: "I don't want to hurt Rachel and this case is not about her. It's about what Jordan said about me and what I said about him."
Craig said he would have pursued his own defamation case.
He told McKnight: "I fully intended to sue your client. But your client, so to speak, beat me to the punch and filed proceedings first."
In his brief of evidence, Craig detailed what he said was a romantic advance from MacGregor.
According to his version of events, it happened on September 14, 2014, four days before her resignation, as they were flying back from Napier.
MacGregor had been "whispering" to him and saying "no one knows me better than you Colin", he said.
"She was reiterating how close she felt we were. She then said 'I want to be with you. I want to be more than just your press secretary'.
"At that point it was like someone dumped a bucket of cold water over me. A warm and friendly conversation with a friend had suddenly turned very serious."
Craig said he interrupted her immediately, telling her not to say that.
"I very clearly recall saying the words 'not in this lifetime', which I remember thinking at the time probably sounded harsher than I intended it to be.
"I remember thinking Rachel had not thought through her proposal [and] how it was going to work. Did she really think I would leave my wife and daughter?"
The trial is due to continue into an 11th day on Monday.