Deputy PM: Simon Bridges behind, but not giving up the fight

Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett (file)
Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett (file)

Simon Bridges might be behind in the race to become Deputy Prime Minister, but he thinks the vote's going to be a lot closer than people expect.

More than twice as many National MPs have publicly backed his rival for the job - Paula Bennett.

While the top job is being gifted to Mr English without any opposition, Ms Bennett and Mr Bridges are fighting what Ms Bennett called on Friday a "contest of ideas".

Twenty-three MPs so far have said they'll be voting for Ms Bennett, and 10 for Mr Bridges. The winner will need the backing of 30 of the party's 59 MPs.

"It's gonna be a tough contest but a fair one," says Mr Bridges. "I think it's close. I take nothing for granted. But you know, I'm feeling pretty good about things."

The 40-year-old Transport Minister says his youth and energy will complement Mr English's steady hand and experience.

"As a Gen-Xer, I'm someone who represents the upper North Island, both cities and provincial New Zealand, and that's important.

"We're not going to be the John Key Government anymore -we're going to be the Bill English Government, and that requires change and some refreshment."

Ms Bennett, 47, says her attributes - being from the city and a woman - will best complement Mr English's farming roots.

"It's nice having a man and a woman up there," she told Paul Henry on Friday.

"I think the Auckland city aspect of it comes in, and that's important. We have exactly the same message, but I say it completely differently."

The decision will be made on Monday, when caucus cast its vote at the same time Mr English will be sworn in as the country's 39th Prime Minister.