National confirms leadership vote to be held on Friday

National MP Todd Muller has sent an email to his caucus colleagues, signalling an intent to challenge the leadership.

Simon Bridges, Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.

Simon Bridges, Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye. Photo: RNZ

It comes after Simon Bridges summoned the party’s MPs back to Parliament for an emergency caucus meeting at midday on Friday.

The phones have been running hot since a disastrous poll this week put the opposition party at just 30 percent.

Shortly after 4pm, Muller sent an email to MPs saying a majority did not believe Bridges could win the election.

Bridges earlier said he was confident he had the numbers to win a vote.

It’s still not clear where the votes would fall if there is a direct challenge, with one well placed MP – a Bridges supporter – telling RNZ it was a “line call”.

Bridges said this morning a vote to test his leadership and that of his deputy Paula Bennett would be held by next Tuesday “at the latest”.

Senior MP Judith Collins and former leadership contender said she would not be mounting a challenge.

“I’ve got no intention of being involved in it, any of that at the moment – no intention at all.”

She declined to say who she would support in any leadership vote.

The numbers are still being done and while some MPs are privately backing a Muller-Kaye leadership team, many are still making up their minds.

Some MPs have questioned Bridges’ strategy of announcing the upcoming vote during his round of media interviews this morning, but Collins would only say that “was entirely up to him”.

When asked whether Bridges and Bennett would survive a vote of no confidence, Collins said that was up to the caucus, adding she “wasn’t doing the numbers for herself or anyone else”.

She said disunity within political parties in an election year was “terrible in terms of the people and the polls” and she urged the caucus to resolve this as soon as possible, then “come together in unity”.

Mark Mitchell ran in the 2018 leadership contest, but said today he fully backed Bridges and would not be making a challenge.

“From day one I’ve pledged my loyalty to Simon and he retains that as leader,” he said.

“Obviously there have been some caucus colleagues that have been active. We’ll be going into caucus next Tuesday and whatever happens in caucus, we will emerge as a united team.”

He would make no comment about Muller as a potential leader, or how things might play out in the event of a caucus vote.

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