Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has been elected Leader of the National Party, with Paula Bennett retaining her spot as deputy.
He was elected in the second round of the ballot, meaning he won at least 29 votes after one of the other candidates was dropped in the first round.
Bridges won’t say which of the candidates was the first to drop out of the vote.
Bennett was one of two MPs running for deputy, but Bridges would not say who the other candidate was.
In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Bridges signalled there will be a portfolio reshuffled within the next couple of weeks. He stressed it’s important to bring new talent through, but to also retain experience.
He said he has offered none of his colleagues a specific portfolio.
“We need the experience, that’s important because you want to see we have the heft that we have had after being in Government for nine years.
“But what’s also true is we can’t go into the next election with the same plans that we have had, we can’t do things just as we have. We can’t say to voters that nothing has changed – we need to continue to modernise.”
In terms of his focus as leader, he said that one of the main areas he will spearhead is holding the Government to account – “we will be firm but fair.”
“We will also be an alternative government in waiting, with a clear and positive plan for the 2020s.”
Bridges mentioned a number of times the current Government was “muddling along,” taking aim at the fact it is “treading water.”
“Their Government is big on lofty intentions, but are struggling to turn that into real gains for New Zealanders.”
He would not go into his “full policy manifesto” but suggested environmental issues would be a priority for any Government he leads.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, he told the AM Show if it came down to it, he would choose to be in a Coalition with the Greens over New Zealand First.
Interestingly enough the Greens were the first party to officially congratulate him in being elected leader.
“Mr Bridges has an opportunity to redefine his party for the future,” Greens leader James Shaw says.
“I hope that he takes this opportunity to work constructively across the House on the most important challenges we face together as a country.”
What’s next for Joyce?
On the future of current Finance Spokesman Steven Joyce, Bridges can’t say if he will remain in that position but says he still has an important role to play in National, noting his strengths in campaigning, economics and finance.
Joyce says he does not know if he will stay in the role and won’t say if he wants to keep it – “I’m not going to try and put pressure on him through the media, I’m just looking forward to having that discussion.”
Both he and Judith Collins say they have had a “fun time,” and it was a good contest. Neither of them would say if they had run for deputy.
Speaking to media this morning, Ardern said Bridges was the candidate she knew best out of the five.
“I spent a number of years meeting with him weekly in the green room of TVNZ for the Breakfast show.”
She agreed with the statement that the leader of the Opposition was “the worst job in politics,” as it tends to put the leader in quite a negative light.
Despite this, her advice to Bridges was to just “enjoy it.”