Paula Bennett rules out National leadership bid, eyes deputy
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett won't be running for the leadership of the National Party.
She will instead be seeking the deputy leadership under Bill English - a role Transport Minister Simon Bridges has declared he wanted.
"I've got a fantastic relationship with Bill, I've worked really well with him for many years. Him and I have been absolutely invested in the social investment approach among other things."
However, she concedes the ultimate decision will be for the Finance Minister if the rest of the caucus votes for him to replace John Key.
Mr Bridges was the first to openly declare his tilt for the deputy leader earlier on Wednesday when he said he'd be better at the job than Ms Bennett.
She avoided a question about whether she would be better at the job than Mr Bridges.
"I'll let my caucus colleagues decide that. I think I've got something to offer."
She is part of what is known around the Beehive as the "kitchen cabinet" a group of senior MPs which meet outside of normal Cabinet gatherings.
She says that two years in the exclusive club has given her a "richness of experience" and has energy for the job.
When asked whether she'd be a deputy under a Judith Collins prime ministership, Ms Bennett said: "I think I'm better suited standing next to Bill".
"He's a Southland farmer and I'm an Auckland city girl and I think that we'd make a good combo."
Countering Mr English's 'boring' public perception, Ms Bennett called him "one of the funniest people I know".
Mr Bridges claimed he was the "change and rejuvenation" to Bill English's "strength and stability" in his bid to be the deputy.
Ms Collins said it was good to have so many people wanting a promotion, but didn't think Mr Bridges' bid would hurt her chances at the top job.
"I think it's great to have lots of people putting themselves forward because it's been 10 years since the National Party caucus has had an opportunity to say who's the leader, deputy or even the whips, really."