National chooses Simon Bridges

National has a new leader - Simon Bridges.

Mr Bridges, aged 41, is the MP for Tauranga and was first elected to Parliament in 2008.

He is the first Māori leader of the National Party.

Coming as something of a surprise, Paula Bennett has been selected as the deputy leader.

Now National is led by two Māori westies. This is surely an historic day.

The caucus (all elected National Party MPs) gathered in Parliament to vote on the new leader on Tuesday morning. Each of the five candidates made a presentation, and then the vote took place.

To win, a candidate needed at least 29 votes from the 56 National MPs. If there was no outright majority in the first round of voting, the lowest-scoring MPs dropped out and those who voted for them recast their vote.

As Lisa Owen pointed out on Newshub's live TV coverage, due to the way the voting worked, Mr Bridges would have been the second, third, perhaps the fourth choice of some caucus members. He will need to work to unite the caucus behind him.

Simon Bridges' plan

During his first speech as leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges said he has three priorities: Hold the Government to account, be a 'Government in waiting' and modernise the team of MPs.

"We'll support the things we think are taking our country forward, that are making a difference, that are providing opportunity for New Zealanders, and we'll oppose that things that we think are merely seeing us tread water and, in the worst cases, going backwards.

"We'll also be an alternative Government in waiting, with a clear and a positive plan for the 2020s."

"We will continue to modernise and build off [prior] successes so we are a truly compelling choice at the next election. We'll continue to develop our team of MPs and our wider members as the strongest in NZ politics."

Back to haunt him

Members of the public are currently sharing a 2014 Newshub story in which Mr Bridges admitted he didn't know of a forest park that had been opened for oil and gas exploration, despite being the Minister who signed off the plan.

Read the story here:

Speaking of archive footage, there's an incredible Lloyd Burr special from 2016, when the Beehive got new carpets, causing politicians to get non-stop electric shocks. As Simon Bridges explains, it led to Parliamentary services stepping in with a dispatch of dehumidifiers, pot plants, tape around metal door handles and rubber mats to place the feet on under the desk.

"On a daily basis I get shocks in my office - daily basis is actually a minute basis - and it got to a point where I was too scared to touch my doors," Mr Bridges said at the time.

So, who is this Simon Bridges?

Newshub journalist Emma Hurley has put together a backgrounder on the man now leading the National Party:

Congratulations (of a sort) from ACT

ACT leader David Seymour said he's still happy to work in a future coalition with National.

"Simon Bridges will need ACT more than any other National Party leader as voters on the right who value personal freedom will be concerned about his socially conservative views."

"Mr Bridges will find it difficult to criticise Shane Jones’ corporate welfare machine given he was running it until 6 months ago as Economic Development Minister," said Mr Seymour.

And the Greens

The congratulations from the Greens was less pointed.

"Mr Bridges has an opportunity to redefine his party for the future.

"I hope that he takes this opportunity to work constructively across the House on the most important challenges we face together as a country," Green Party co-leader James Shaw said in a statement.

Shades of green

Simon Bridges described himself during the contest as a 'blue-green' candidate. 

He says if the Green Party is truly environmental, it will work with National at the next election.

Simon Bridges addresses the nation

Simon Bridges said National should be a 'Government in waiting', implying the party should not drastically remodel itself to suit Opposition.

He said there wouldn't be a major overhaul of National's policies.

'Just like old times'

This morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said of all the National candidates, she knows Mr Bridges best. That's because, she said, they spent time together in the TVNZ green rooom when they used to go head-to-head on Breakfast.

Meanwhile, at NZ First

New Zealand First has elected a new deputy leader - Fletcher Tabuteau.

Last week, the caucus re-elected Winston Peters as leader. It also announced the deputy leadership would be up for a vote.

"The role comes with significant responsibility and I am delighted to have received the confidence of my caucus colleagues," Mr Tabuteau said.

Read our full reportage here:

Wise beyond their years?

All talk in the political gallery has been of the real contest being between Simon Bridges and Amy Adams. 

But if a class of 5, 6 and 7 year-olds are anything to go by, perhaps Mark Mitchell and his "fluffy dog" would be a popular choice.

"Dear National, our class (5, 6 & 7 year olds) voted on who should be your new leader. We voted for Mark Mitchell because he was a policeman who had a fluffy dog. Judith Collins got second. Good luck today," wrote Melanie D on Twitter.

Bill English clears his office

It must be a bitter-sweet day for Bill English. He's clearing out his office. Here he is with his last box of stuff. 

Bill English carrying the last box from his office.
Bill English carrying the last box from his office. Photo credit: Lloyd Burr/Newshub.

National block the view

National have taped sheets of blue paper over the glass doors that lead down the party's corridor. 

The door would allow the media a view down the corridor. Right at the end of the hallway is the caucus room, where the vote will take place.

Nick Smith defended the 'blue-out', saying it's important for "democratic process."

When he opened the doors to enter himself, there was a screen blocking the view.

Nick Smith on the way to caucus.
Nick Smith on the way to caucus. Photo credit: Newshub.

Ha! A great tweet on the whole silly blue-door saga.