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Simon Bridges says his leadership is being challenged; Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye said to be gunning for leader/deputy; Issue expected to be dealt with by Tuesday at the latest

Simon Bridges says his leadership is being challenged; Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye said to be gunning for leader/deputy; Issue expected to be dealt with by Tuesday at the latest
Simon Bridges. RNZ pool image.

Simon Bridges says he and Paula Bennett are being challenged for National’s leader and deputy leader positions.

Word on the street is that Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye are vying for the top jobs, however they haven't publicly confirmed this. 

Bridges during Wednesday morning media interviews said he expected the issue to be resolved “quickly” - by Tuesday “at the latest” when the party’s caucus meets.

Asked by Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson whether he would remain in the party as an MP if he lost the leadership, Bridges said he had “no plan B”, but that he was confident he had the numbers to remain leader with Bennett’s support.

Later on Wednesday morning, RNZ political editor, Jane Patterson, said Bridges looked to be calling the bluff of Muller and Kaye by coming out and saying a vote would be held soon. Patterson's view was that Bridges was essentially challenging them to put up or shut up.

Judith Collins and Mark Mitchell - earlier speculated to be challengers - told the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB they weren't going for it.

Support for National plummeted in the latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll conducted between May 8 and 16.

The poll indicated that if there was an election tomorrow, National would receive 30.6% of the vote (down 12.7% points from the last poll done in February). It would only secure 39 seats in Parliament - well short of the 61 required to govern.

Support for Bridges fell to only 4.5% (down 6.1% points from the last poll), as Jacinda Ardern’s popularity hit a record high for this particular poll.

Rubbing salt in the wound, former National prime minister Jim Bolger on Tuesday evening did an interview with RNZ, endorsing Muller, who previously worked for him. 

Meanwhile another former National prime minister, John Key, last month did a Facebook Live with Chinese media, Skykiwi, effectively endorsing Christopher Luxon - the former Air New Zealand CEO selected as National's candidate for Botany. 

Reporter’s opinion:

Muller and Kaye are highly competent individuals. Their problem is their lack of public profile.

The other hurdle they may face is solidifying the support of National’s conservative wing.

Who are Muller and Kaye?

Muller towards the start of the current term of government made a name for himself as a climate conscious National MP, as he worked collaboratively with Climate Change Minister James Shaw to ensure Shaw’s Zero Carbon Bill had cross-party support.

In mid-2019 he become agriculture spokesperson - an important job for the National Party as the sector faced a number of regulatory changes around water quality, emissions pricing and land use changes to promote forestry.

Muller is also National’s spokesperson for biosecurity, food safety and forestry. First elected in 2014, he’s the MP for the Bay of Plenty.

Muller is a former Zespri general manager, Apata (kiwifruit and avocado post-harvest service) CEO, and most recently, Fonterra corporate affairs director.

While Muller is only ranked 16th on the National Party list, Kaye is seventh.

She has been the MP for Auckland Central since 2008, beating Ardern when she ran in this seat in 2011 and 2014.

Kaye is National’s spokesperson for education, sport and recreation. She held a number of ministerial portfolios during National’s previous terms in government, including education, ACC, youth affairs and civil defence.

Of particular interest to readers, Kaye is continuing to lead a campaign to try to reform the Unit Titles Act to strengthen the management of apartments and townhouses.

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Go Crusher! She's only chance for the Nat and its own version of Mad Dog Prebble..


I'm sure Jacinda is right with you there Chairman, that's her dream scenario for a landslide victory and governing alone for the next 3 years.

Agreed hopefully being able to address moral issues such as a CGT, housing affordability, and economic inequality (in particular obscene high wages through a higher tax rate threshold around $150,000) without being curtailed by Winston ingratiating himself with his rich self-entitled mates.

Jacinda's already indicated that after the next election they intend for the current governing arrangement to continue - that is if Labour + Greens could govern together, they'd still bring in NZ First as well.

So the only way for Winston to not being in government (seemingly) is for NZFirst to not make it back into Parliament.

Why would you say anything else at this stage if you are Labour? And why would you have NZFirst in the fold acting as a handbrake to every move you hold dear if you don't need them?

Is Oravida publicly traded? If so, might be time to buy!

So National solidifies it's right leaning support and loses any hope of attracting the centre, which you need to win an election? Wouldn't seem to make any sense other than to make JC supporters feel warm and fuzzy while National is in opposition and has less seats than they do now.

Without a large scandal or sudden turn in events (like Jacinda dying or resigning), National has pretty much written this election off.

For the MPs in the caucus it is now about who best can protect their seat. There's a big difference in list MPs between 31%, 34%, 37% and 39% election results.

The MPs may figure that Judith Collins isn't enough to win, but could get them a solid 35% result, whereas Simon might be destined to return 31%.

On the mark....

With 50 odd seats in the house now, 10 or more are destine to lose their jobs.

Nobby might have to consider selling his house in Matua he bought for $2.2 million; not too mention his apartment in Wellington. Just how he got to afford these on the salary he was on prior seems a mystery to me anyway. Maybe he had some secondary assistance?

RNZ said they spoke to her and she's not contesting it.

Another puppet to the Chinese

Rumour has it that the softest part of Crusher Collins is her teeth......


They do need a change going in to the election. Bridges has never polled well in the PM stakes.

I think they'd be better off keeping Ximon in place until after this election. Dumping him right after is much better for the party than dumping him now and letting their new leader have a lost election on their track record to start with.

Yes, they are a bunch of idiots fighting amongst themselves, I don't think any of them can think clearly at this stage.

Unfortunately a poorly polling National Party is going to mean greater support for Winston and his return to a coalition government giving him disproportionate weight of political power to push his narrow interests (and his baubles of power).

Well Jacinda pulled the rabbit out of the hat last election so theres nothing to say a change now wouldnt succeed. They would need to have a strong message though and move back to the interests of NZers rather than China

You need some persepctive with Jacinda's result though.
She was up against a party going for it's fourth term and beat them by promising the earth - then reneging on every promise.

Against a first term govt, Nats would have to tell some super-porkies.
Zero GST
Zero Income Tax
Minimum wage to $500 per hour
Benefit to $2000 per week
Super to $2000 per week.

Then if the succeed, they can then open the borders (Probably to CCP approved visitors only) and go about their merry way doing whatever it is they pretend to do.

The aim is to lose the election with the highest percentage of Nat votes they can muster, to retain as many list MPs as they can.

Anyone who loses this election can just say "it was always going to be a hard ask to win this, but we had to dump Simon due to his poor leadership over COVID", particularly if polling picks up and they can show a higher preferred PM result than Simon achieved.

politics is brutal.

Yes. What I don't get is why National simply can't get its head around a female leader. The reporting makes it sound like Muller is going to be the leader - and the old boy Nats are already coming out in favour of him.

Why? Nikki Kaye has been a Parliamentarian since 2008 - Todd Muller since 2014. Kaye has been a Minister (many portfolios over) and she beat Jacinda Ardern for her seat in 2008;

I agree Kate, and that's the exact sort of thing holding ze gnats back.

But I'm not sure now is the best time for them to have Nikki Kaye as their leader, she might have beaten Jacinda some years ago but things have moved on and Jacinda would (at worst) have her measure now.

because the carcus don't like nikki she is to leftie,
but she beat Jacinda twice in auckland central in what was a labour seat

Although that was largely a matter of demographic change.

Rubbish, stop running apologetics for her a quick google shows left wing consistently get most party votes in Auckland Central, voters there obviously just didn't rate Ardern. She was a lazy lightweight that failed to win in a left wing electorate in 2011 and 2014 (after which she gave up trying).

It's because National are stuck in the 1970's.....

Didn't Kaye come out and say a while back that she didn't want to be Prime Minister due to stress etc especially after the recent cancer battle?

Perhaps she is voluntarily taking the no.2 spot for health reasons?

I would have thought there would be too much stress for her in that role.
This spill is about National keeping,or increasing, its numbers in parliament. Simon Bridges has lost his remaining demeanor because of his comments about the pandemic. Prior to that it was Jamie Ross saga. As a consequence, he now has too much baggage so he and Paula Benefit (his name calling on ZB this week) will be demoted next Tuesday.

He called her benefit again? lol!

That I would give credence to

Maybe just a point of difference.

They did have NZs 1st female PM in Jenny Shipley remember

It's very easy to look at this from the outside and say "isn't it obvious?" but the National caucus has factions and Nikki is (apparently) the most left-wing MP in their caucus, so she likely doesn't have a lot of support behind her to step straight into the leader role.

I think the Nats had the first ever female Prime Minister in Jenny Shipley Kate, so I don't think its that - personally I'd prefer Nikki Kaye, but then for all we know she may well have decided that with her still recent health scare that maybe she doesnt want to have the top job but is still happy to play a more senior role than she does currently? I think that there is now almost zero chance Simon can get then over the line, and although its a stretch to think Barclay/Kaye will do so either, its the only chance the Nats have and I'd take it if I was them.

Not Barclay/Kaye - Muller/Kaye. That other Todd was the fresh faced illegal recording artist from Invercargill :-)

Good to see a relative A team are going to challenge the C team.

its going to be muller/kaye ticket
but who in there right mind would want to lead national into this election, best they can do will be save some seats, the next election is there for winning once the recession is in full swing

It could be an effort at job preservation?

If National drops too far then a number of MPs would lose their stable $160k+ per year for the next three years. Perhaps at the least they're looking to replace Ximon in the hope that more MP seats can be retained.

Thats what it will come down to for the 16-20 (on the poll) who are likely to be without a job. Wouldn't seem a problem for Muller - his seat seems very secure - and having a look at his past career I doubt even the PMs salary is anything but a pay cut for him. So doubt that is what can be driving him. Nikki Kaye would be very hard pushed to hold her seat should there be a swing to Labour - and would need a very high list ranking within National to be safe. A quick look at the National rankings as they stand publicly now.....there would be some dead wood needing to be pruned to allow talent for the future to be retained. Bridges just doesn't seem to resonate well with the public - of any political persuasion. I hope for National's sake they do this quick and clean - one way or the other. If he doesn't have the numbers Bridges needs to walk.

Interesting that Muller started as a career politician then went to business as an exec, then back into politics. And yet the common hymnsheet of the right is that there's too much difference between business and politics or that expertise validly only flows one way (from business to politics, not vice versa).

The times I have seen Simon Bridges speak in person he has been unfortunately incredibly underwhelming. Not sure if he was just coincidentally having bad days on all of them or what. Bungled names of the people he was talking about, seemed very unprepared and just acts kinda "shifty". It almost feels unkind saying it but I can definitely see how he is failing to inspire the masses

and just acts kinda "shifty".

That's just authenticity. Give him credit for it.

Yep job security is at the core of it. Damage control in other words.

How utterly underwhelming.
All so very vanilla.When the country needs something a bit special this is what they come up with?

If politicians are everyday objects. Simon would be a wet bus ticket and Judith is a baseball bat with rusty nails...Well may be.


She might be OK, if it wasn't for the Oravida connections. Too close to the CCP for my liking. That's a NO from me.

What, you mean she should be jailed?
She'd be great for labour, leading National.


I can't believe he called his deputy Paula benefit again live on radio

He was just trying to get the Nats connecting with Paula Benefits Westie roots.

What bemuses me is Simon's lack of self awareness. If I were him and truly believed in the blue team and looked at the polling, I'd have the humility to say, look team, I'm really not the right girl/guy at this time. The numbers say so (repeatedly). I'm stepping down for the benefit of the future of the party.

But he doesn't, he's either stupid or in denial. It might even be both. And that nobody has pushed harder in the past to remove him makes me think that culture fits the whole party (note I've voted National in the past so this is not a tribal anti-national thing - just where I think the party is at).

That is exactly what a normal person would do. It is clear to everyone (except Bridges) that Bridges is not the person to be running the show. Let someone else have a crack for the greater good. Distancing from the CCP is needed as well.

Agree, distancing from CCP is paramount to a successful campaign for all political parties.

But who, nothing spectacular to be seen. Kaye No Muller NO

Cannot deny the bloke is somewhat gauche. It was naive to take on the leadership in the first place, if you look at others such as Marshall, McLay, Shipley. But he may have wagered that the coalition would self implode. But it hasn’t, so far. Still Labour has a very delicate and tricky task in front of them re the tax regime for the next three years, at the least. Assume this must be included in their manifesto prior to the election? (can someone confirm if that is so.) That might provide some worthwhile ammunition for National.

Is it a lack of awareness though?
He seems to want to do it for himself or because he thiks he is the best rather than for the benefit of the country - or even his own party. Born to rule attitude

maybe he needs to social distance himself from his caucus, he has done a good job with the voters already


Collins is unelectable. Too much baggage, too polarising. It’s obvious that Bridges has to go, simply because he doesn’t have the charisma to rival Ardern. My National mole tells me that there is strong support for Luxon, who of course has to win a seat first, possibly with Collins as a deputy. But a lot of marginal MPs are rattled by the latest polls, and want to save their skins by changing leaders now. Hosking’s support for Bridges, who any fool can see is a dead man walking, would lend support to the theory that many in the National Party do not want to change leaders now, but rather wait for Luxon, JK mk2. And Collins’ comments this morning add some weight to that.
One rumour is that National may gift another seat to ACT (the old Rodney seat?), which would give them up to six seats on a 3% vote share. Correct my MMP maths if I’m wrong.

Yes two shoe horned ACT seats a distinct tactic. Labour would probably retaliate with ditto for NZF, perhaps one only though. So effectively our politicians would be gerrymandering and in so doing defeating the basis of MMP and the very reason the electorate voted for it.

I expect and hope there would be more said if they did gift 2 seats. There is gerrymandering and then this is more obviously cheating, or a least bending the rules a very long way. The public will see it, so it is a chance on what the reaction could be.
National have had 3 years to find a friend.......,.,

New Zealand cannot afford to wait three more years

Been years since ACT managed a 3% share of Party votes, hasn't it? Probably not such a good idea.

"Muller and Kaye are highly competent individuals".

But are they any use where we are heading?

Not asked, not answered. And not for lack of prodding.....

It looks like Bridges is safe. There seems to be at least three factions in the party. The Trumpian/Crusher far-right. The Liberal lets address climate change centre-right of Muller and Kaye. And the compromised middle group clustering around Bridges. Probably no faction has an outright majority of caucus support. Yet by Simon outing Muller and Kaye leadership challenge and Crusher Collins declaring that a no-confidence vote will fail that means two of the three factions back Simon.
So despite Simon failing to connect with the public it looks like National doesn't have the stomach to replace him (remember how the public hated Simon's lets not extend the lockdown Facebook post

If they put Muller in they're going to shear off a part of their farmer base, and I hope that goes to the only small state, free enterprise party, and the only opposition party right now: ACT.

Muller's 'blessing' by newbie communist, Jim Bolger, who needs to just shut up, he's irrelevant to anything National used to stand for, and a blessing on Muller's climate change credentials no less - stone me! - will let farmers know National will be little different in power under Muller, than a Labour government.

Why both major parties have become big state fundies trying to get the same vote, heaven only knows.

Outside David Seymour, who has put out a well thought out alternative budget - where was National's? - Parliament is an intellectual vacuum precisely at the time the country really needs someone with a clue.

I haven't read ACT's policy. Was it tax cuts and austerity, plus selling land to foreigners? Or some other useful stuff?

There's so much to attack Labour on. It was a 50-50 call about Bridges being PM in February, the government was doing so badly. Take things away from Covid-19 and they'll get more traction

You should read it - it's really easy to read and interesting (pretty classic ACT stuff but worth thinking about) - download the .pdf from here first web page, right hand side);

Final pages are the most interesting - that's where they introduce user-charges (all roads and rail) and new taxes (although they call the carbon tax a carbon price). In other words, it's where they replace revenues cut elsewhere.

Thanks. I should not be so caustic to them as ACT do raise some good ideas. And some good ones in this budget. Great ideas on tax and some of the cutting of government spending.

They have a few odd ones..

1. Immediate resort to selling off NZ's land to foreign ownership.
2. Increasing student costs at a time when NZ needs to be investing in areas that can actually make us more competitive in the future. I'd like to see this a bit more targeted.
3. Boost farm profits by allowing water pollution...

Who would the average farmer vote for if Muller was leader though Mark? Winnie or Act seem the only two options.

Hard to see the average died in the wool National party voting cockie ever voting for Labour, esp a Lab/Greens coalition which seems likely.

My inlaws are farmers and although one of the fam actually mentioned voting Labour last election I couldn't actually see them do anything other than voting for National no matter who was the leader.

Do they not have kids? I'm not sure how the inflating of land prices over the last decade combined with the obsession of selling NZ's best land into foreign ownership actually helps NZ's next generations of farmers.

National's campaigning has to pander to low-information Urban swing-voter beliefs. They can best support farmers though their deeds - enacting sensible legislation and regulation.

I think the job requirements have changed. People are looking for inspirational leaders. There was nothing wrong with Little, English, and (maybe a stretch at Cunicliife), they just didn't inspire people. Key had it , Adern has it , people may not agree with them , some may hate them , but they got the numbers.
Collins wouldnt have it for the majority , Kaye would have to spice up abit, Muller a bit of unknown.

It wouldn't matter whether National swapped out Bridges or not, we all know they are a very corrupt party and there's nothing they can do to change that perception.

All their policies center around selling off NZ to overseas buyers and removing (relaxing being the political term) Anti money laundering restrictions, so they can reinstate their Ponzi scheme which is a false economy.

So why not Kaye/Muller?

Should they now be referred to as Kuller? :)

As opposed to...…… Maye?

Within a usually 'always blue' younger farming set (30somethings) not one of them is is going to vote National this year. No1 reason - allowing foreign buyers back in to farming. No2 reason -Simon Bridges as leader.

Yep. Foreign ownership is the Nats blind spot. Perhaps they will realise it after they get hammered....perhaps not.

And when they want to sell their farm down the'll find that attitudes change.....I'll sell to who I want...... People want to buy at the lowest price possible and sell at the highest. Or do they plan on taking less for their farm when they sell to help a nice Kiwi couple onto the land? Tui ad.

Mark Mitchell would be a Simon 2.0.
He may not actually be better.

Muller I could handle - he works well with Shaw on the Climate.

Mitchell is the male version of crusher in most people eyes is he not?

I'd say there are various factions and strategies being played out.
Nats probably feel this election is close to being lost with Simon Bridges in charge,his momentum in the wrong direction is too strong now. you change him out now to minimise damage and possibly turn things around miraculously because of the economic condtions?
Do you leave him in because no one wants to be in charge of losing an election?
What if you leave him in charge and there is a rout and most of their talent & list MP's don't get back in?
But,if you are Muller & Kaye,can you risk leaving Bridges in,have him lose the election,but then have Christopher Luxon,(John Keys annointed him on a NZ Chinese new site no less ) throw his hat in the ring with 'Crusher' as his running mate.
He has a profile,but unproven as a politician,Collins would provide the political nous for his ticket.
Muller by all accounts is very impressive and his political / business experience will hold him in good stead...but I don't know that he has any profile outside of the ag sector.
Much to ponder...

I saw Todd Muller talk at an environmental farmer leaders event last year and was very impressed. He spoke without notes, covered key issues, cracked a few jokes and critiqued the Government's freshwater reforms in detail while using plain English. Although it was a friendly audience, Muller had obvious charisma and talent. Bridges has little more than ambition.

I worked under Todd Muller at Fonterra, and have met him a few times in a personal capacity through mutual friends. What struck me about him was, for a guy at that level, he had no obvious ego, and treated you very much as an equal.

Not a quality I have seen in many who rise to those levels.

That would be a change for the better, for sure.

Fonterra bit worries me

Silly Jamie Lee Ross! He should've hung around and could throw his name in the ring for that leadership role.

Maybe when he and Simon are both unemployed,they can rekindle their relationship and start a new party...

Just two more white faces to front the National Party (of China Corruption) I'd be more interested in the likes of Jo Hayes and Dr Shane Reti, they could really shake up the status quo.

Labour are in the position that National were in when John Key was elected, and was too popular. It is about finding the right leader that can engage, I suspect whoever is chosen now will only last a short while before possibly Luxon becomes leader, so whoever it is is basically a 'Night Watchman'. I hadn't hear do Muller before, he was apparently the 'Ok Boomer' guy.

I find the expectations about Luxon interesting. Why would the National party look to turn the clock back to 2008? The man has yet to prove he can survive in the bear pit.

This is just swapping deck chairs on the Titanic, expect another 3 years of Labour regardless.