23 May 2020

Twin tasks: build a public profile and shape a team

6:10 am on 23 May 2020

The new National leader Todd Muller now has to turn his attention to the make-up of his caucus, after defeating Simon Bridges at yesterday's emergency meeting.

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Todd Muller has indicated while there may be some minor tweaks, he's happy with the broad policy platform he is inheriting. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

He's already signalled there won't be sweeping changes, with less than four months to go until the election.

Muller said he and his new leadership team needed some time to settle in.

"Somebody else stood in this lectern a couple of years ago and said, you know, six weeks out from an election, give us a few days, let our senior team reflect on what, if anything, we need to polish, or check and adjust, that's of course the immediate priority," he said.

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Paul Goldsmith Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Muller said Paul Goldsmith would stay in the role of finance spokesperson and while he said Bridges could get a "senior role", he wouldn't say whether there would be room for him or former deputy leader Paula Bennett on the front bench, saying that was a conversation "for another day".

He said while there may be some minor tweaks, he's happy with the broad policy platform he is inheriting.

"The clear signals that we've made, particularly recently in response to Covid absolutely stay there. I mean the broader settings are part of the work that I know Paul and the wider team have been working particularly hard on in terms of how now do we frame up an economic response or an economic recovery response that has community, jobs, family at its centre," he said.

The other priority for Muller, is raising his public profile.

"There's a conversation that I need to do with the people of New Zealand so that they can see me, understand what motivates me, understand the work we're doing to frame up a vision that they feel comfortable with."

Day that he wins leadership of Nats

Todd Muller, seen here with wife Michelle, will be seen to sell his new style to voters. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Deputy respects Muller's integrity

Muller has been described by his deputy as the most decent person she knows.

Auckland Central MP and former Education Minister Nikki Kaye has teamed up with Muller to lead the National Party with just four months until the election.

Kaye says the new Opposition leader has "huge integrity and authenticity''.

"He manages to bring together a diverse range of views. So I have confidence he can unite both the conservative people in our caucus, but also those people who are liberals.

"And he's got an extraordinary ability to bring people together and people like him,'' she said.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye the day before a vote on the National Party's leadership. She is understood to be running on a ticket with Todd Muller.

Nikki Kaye is replacing Paula Bennett as National's deputy leader. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Disappointment and relief

Bridges said that while he was disappointed by the outcome of the vote, he also had a small sense of relief.

He said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family, and he would be taking some time to reflect on his future political career.

"I'm not going to come out with any grand pronouncements any time real soon. As someone else once said, just happy to be the Member of Parliament for Tauranga, it's a great seat, it's a great place.

"I certainly wouldn't say that I don't enjoy Parliament and politics, it's a great privilege," he said.

Bridges said he wanted to see National win the election, and he believed that Muller and Kaye could do that.

He said he hoped the party would be able to rally and unify around them.

"These things take their toll, I think that it's been great that we've resolved it quickly and you know the hope will be that we can now move into the future and get back to discussions that matter to New Zealanders," Bridges said.

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