Jonathan Coleman pulls out of National leadership race

(Newshub)
(Newshub)

Jonathan Coleman has dropped out of National's leadership race, leaving Bill English unopposed to replace John Key as Prime Minister and party leader.

Mr Coleman says he called Bill English to congratulate him on winning the leadership.

"We had a really good chat and I think he is going to make a very fine Prime Minister of New Zealand", he says.

"Obviously I would have loved to have been leader, and I was in there pursuing that result but all things considered I think we've got a great result for the party."

He says he's not considering putting his name forward for deputy leader, and he refused to endorse either Simon Bridges or Paula Bennett for the position.

Mr Coleman says there's a real mood for change and "rejuvenation" within the caucus.

"We've got to be fresh, it's got to be more than just a new Prime Minister, it can't be the John Key Government without John Key".

Mr Coleman says that taking part in the race against Mr English and Judith Collins meant that pressure for change was put on the agenda.

"I think Bill will have to clearly demonstrate to his caucus what change means and there's some real expectations around that", Mr Coleman says.

"Those discussions wouldn't have been started if I hadn't come into this race."

Earlier on Thursday, Judith Collins withdrew from the race and backed Mr English.

"It is clear to me that 50 percent of the caucus support Bill as leader, and so as far as I'm concerned he has won", Ms Collins said.

Mr English has named Steven Joyce as his Finance Minister, should he become Prime Minister.

He says Mr Joyce, currently the Economic Development Minister, is the most capable person for the job.

The battle for deputy leader is still on between Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett.

Mr Bridges believes he's the "change and rejuvenation" to Bill English's "strength and stability" in his bid to be deputy.

Ms Bennett says she has a "richness of experience" and "a fantastic relationship with Bill, I've worked really well with him for many years".

"He's a Southland farmer and I'm an Auckland city girl and I think that we'd make a good combo."

Mr English says "it all happened pretty fast" and he's "not had time to reflect" on the fact he is effectively the new Prime Minister.

While the leader result is clear, the National caucus will still vote for the new Prime Minister and deputy on December 12.

Newshub.

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