Battle royale begins for National Party leadership

Source: 1News

There are five candidates vying for leadership of the National Party following Thursday’s ousting of Judith Collins, 1News political editor Jessica Mutch McKay says.

Collins' sacking came after a dramatic 15 hours - late on Wednesday night Collins released a statement informing the press Simon Bridges was being demoted following a complaint around a serious misconduct allegation.

Bridges revealed on Thursday it related to a lewd comment he made in front of fellow National MP Jacqui Dean in 2017, which had been dealt with in-house at the time.

Collins was due to hold the media conference at 10am on Thursday, after the 9am caucus meeting. After three hours news emerged Collins had lost her role.

Dr Shane Reti, who was her deputy, has taken temporary charge until a final decision on a permanent leader is made on Tuesday.

After a day speaking with sources within the National Party, Mutch McKay reports there are five candidates vying for the leadership spot.

They are Bridges, Christopher Luxon, Mark Mitchell, Nicola Willis and Chris Bishop.

Shane Reti will hold the party's reins for now until a new permanent leader is voted in by MPs next week.

Luxon is a fresh face in politics, having only been in office since last year's election, but Mutch McKay said his leadership role and experience with Air New Zealand could be what the party needs to stablilise itself after two years of chaos.

Bridges is a familiar name to New Zealanders, having led the National Party following Bill English's resignation in 2018.

While that stint was ultimately unsuccessful, Bridges said on Thursday he was "older and wiser" than when he was first manning the helm.

Mitchell will once again aim to become National's leader, having lost to Collins 16 months ago.

"He may be seen as a good 'middle-ground' for the party, depending on how things play out with Simon Bridges," Mutch McKay said.

Finally, two bolters could be Willis and Bishop, Mutch McKay said.

"They've always been seen as rising stars, as future leaders of the party. Maybe their time has come," she said.

Collins was also asked for her opinion as she left a pub on Thursday evening, she quickly ruled out backing Bridges or Mark Mitchell for the role, but said Christopher Luxon is intelligent and "a nice man."

The new leader will be decided on at the party's caucus meeting on Tuesday.