Paula Bennett, only contender for Deputy PM, 'confident' she'll win

Paula Bennett
Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett says she's "quite confident" she'll be Deputy Prime Minister on Monday, after her only rival for the job bowed out of the race.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself," Ms Bennett told media on Saturday afternoon, two hours after Simon Bridges announced he was no longer gunning for the role.

"While my numbers were good, they weren't good enough," Mr Bridges told reporters at Britomart in Auckland. "In truth, it was never about me. It was about having a contest and ensuring that great ideas were talked about."

Ms Bennett said it was a "great contest of ideas", and if she wasn't in the running, Mr Bridges would have had her vote.

"Simon Bridges is someone I hugely admire - I've enjoyed the last few days, we're good mates."

Mr Bridges is believed to have had the support of around a third of the National caucus - 20 MPs. Ms Bennett says her close working relationship with future Prime Minister Bill English helped her across the line.

"I've worked very closely with Bill English for the last eight years in particular as a minister, both under the welfare portfolio and more recently in housing and in associate finance. We've just got a really good working relationship.

"I do think there's strengths in the sort of southern from him and the Auckland from me. I think that we do have complementary skills in many respects."

She's not worried a third of the party's MPs were planning to vote for Mr Bridges.

"I'm not sure they were against me - I just think they were with Simon, which is healthy… There's absolutely no animosity."

The clean transition of power comes in stark contrast to Labour, which went through five leaders during John Key's tenure - Helen Clark, Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little.

"Here we are six days later, quite frankly, from what has been for some of us the political shock of our careers, with John Key stepping aside, and we're standing united."

Mr Key resigned on Monday, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and head back into the commercial world.