28 Oct 2020

Questions hang over National MPs still teetering in the balance

2:19 pm on 28 October 2020

A major question mark remains over the future of National's deputy leader Gerry Brownlee, following the party's devastating election loss.

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National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Brownlee was the architect behind the party's chaotic campaign and also lost his long-held Ilam seat in Christchurch on election night.

When asked about whether Brownlee would remain as her deputy leader, Collins would not be pressed on her preference, saying it was a matter for the caucus.

"I'm always keen to have Gerry with us," she said.

"I'm very happy to have the decision made by the caucus, and I'm very happy to have Gerry as our deputy. He's been a great stalwart and he is a great stalwart."

Brownlee did not expressly say he wanted to stay on in the role, saying that it was a matter for caucus to decide.

"I want what's best for the National Party. I've been a deputy before, I've stepped aside before. Whatever is best for our caucus moving forward is obviously what I will want to facilitate."

He said none of his colleagues have expressed any concerns about him staying on, but that he had not canvassed around to see if he still had support.

In response to a question about whether he would fight for the position, he said that was a "fundamental misunderstanding" of how the National caucus worked.

"Our caucus is going to have a discussion, if that's what the caucus decides I'll accept that", Brownlee said.

National MPs spoken to today openly backed Brownlee as deputy.

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Simon Bridges Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Former leader Simon Bridges said he was happy with Collins and Brownlee and said he would "never again" take a tilt at the leadership.

Whangaparāoa MP Mark Mitchell ruled out putting his hand up for any leadership role "at the moment", and said that he thought Brownlee had the "right qualities" for the role.

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Todd Muller Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Former leader Todd Muller said he backed the current leadership team, and he hadn't heard any rumblings about a challenge to Brownlee.

Nicola Willis said she wanted to see Collins and Brownlee "continue in their leadership", while Chris Bishop said the current leadership had "done a very good job in trying circumstances".

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Chris Bishop Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Collins to meet one-on-one with her MPs

Judith Collins will meet with each of her MPs today and tomorrow to discuss their roles and portfolios in the new Parliament.

"Also, where they can add some value that they may not have realised that they've got in areas or experiences they haven't got an opportunity to show," she said.

Collins will wait until Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveils the government's ministerial line-up before allocating portfolios.

"It's a real weighing up situation where I have to say what are the qualifications, experience and attributes that we've already seen from our members, what is it that they have to have an opportunity to already show, what is it that they think they can add value?

"So for instance I remember when Simon Bridges was the leader I specifically asked for housing and RMA. Why? Because I knew I could add value there," she said.

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National leader Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National's numbers could fall further

Collins will also be awaiting the results from the special votes before assigning roles and portfolios, as her caucus could shrink further.

On the prospect of losing more MPs, Collins said it is "always a possibility."

"I've always thought there's no point worrying about things you can't control, you've just got to make the best of those matters that you can control," she said.

Facing the possibility of losing their job is a hard position for MPs to be in, Collins said.

List MP Maureen Pugh is "on the cusp. She's been there before, she's a very resilient person and unfortunately people often become resilient because of their experiences and she's had to do that before," Collins said.

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Matt King Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Matt King could also be booted from Parliament when special votes are returned, with just over 700 votes between him and Labour's Willow-Jean Prime in the Northland electorate.

King said the odds were 60/40 in his favour.

"I've been told that anything more than 400 votes is safe, however this was a rout and if it goes the way of the red wave then I'm possibly going to be out," he said.

Nick Smith lost his long-held Nelson seat and is also at risk, and along with and Maureen Pugh avoided speaking to media on the way to caucus this morning.

The results from the special votes will be returned next Friday.

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Party President Peter Goodfellow Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"The status quo isn't acceptable"

Party President Peter Goodfellow said the board had met a couple of times to discuss the potential terms of reference for the review of the party's election campaign, and would meet again in the next few days.

"Clearly the status quo isn't acceptable, so we want to get the right sort of comprehensive review under way".

Goodfellow would not say whether the review would be done before Christmas, or whether it would be fully released publicly.

"That's for the board to discuss and decide on. We've done reviews after each of our campaigns, but this one I think just needs to be more comprehensive and a bit more robust.

"It won't be a secret from our members, that's for sure. They'll certainly get fully briefed on that just as soon as we're able. Look even if it were completed by Christmas it would still be next year", Goodfellow said.

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