Battle to replace Bill English: 'It's all on'

  • 31/01/2018

National Party MPs are already discussing who will replace current leader Bill English, according to those on the inside.

Newshub political reporter Lloyd Burr says there's "no way" Mr English will lead the National Party into the next election

"This is something that's been talked about for quite a long time," Burr told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"There have been discussions going on since the last election.

"It's all on... the ball is rolling."

National MP Sarah Dowie told Newshub there's been "a bit of talk" about who would replace Mr English as leader. 

However her colleague Louise Upston said: "I think that talk's ridiculous, and I don't know where that's come from."

National's Todd Muller said "support for Bill is huge". 

However reports his resignation is imminent are overblown, Burr says. Mr English is expected to be allowed to choose the time of his departure, and leave gracefully.

"There's nothing that's imminent, there's no-one sharpening their knives in the caucus room," Burr says.

Political commentators Chris Trotter and Trish Sherson agree.

"I think the Nats would be crazy to go through this at this time," Mr Trotter told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"They have the lesson of the Labour Party in front of them - revolving door leadership just strobes 'losers' to their electorate."

Ms Sherson says National is in a strong place to overthrow Labour.

"They have come straight out of Government and they have a very inexperienced new Government on their hands," she says.

"They know where all the bodies are buried, they know how the machinery works."

So who are the front running candidates to replace Mr English?

Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges has already been tipped as the front-runner to replace Mr English.

He had an aggressive start to this Parliamentary term, turning the House upside down on opening day.

The AM Show host Duncan Garner said the National caucus will most likely go with him.

"I think the guy they're looking at is Bridges," he says.

Paula Bennett

"I don't know if Paula Bennett is a contender to be honest," Burr believes.

"Once upon a time she was, she was seen as a possible leader, I think she's out."

The deputy leader has recently returned from gastric bypass surgery over the summer break and says she's feeling "100 percent better".

Judith Collins

Judith Collins remains a huge threat for the other contenders, with a strong performance opposing the Government.

"She'd be a formidable opposition leader," Burr argues.

"Not sure how she'd go as Prime Minster because as soon as she gets those positions of power... she seems to stuff it up."

Ms Collins has already put her hand up for the position, after running in the 2016 leadership race.

But she didn't have the support of her colleagues.

Nikki Kaye

Nikki Kaye has a strong track record, having already beaten Labour leader Jacinda Ardern for the Auckland Central seat.

However Burr isn't so sure.

"You've got to look at her experience, her track record as a minster, whether her caucus colleagues want it" he says.

"Just because she beat Jacinda Ardern in Auckland Central doesn't mean she can beat her across the country."

Steven Joyce

"He only knows Parliament as a Cabinet Minister, so a smart bet would be that he wants to quit rather than languish on the Opposition benches, however a question mark hangs over whether he wants to be leader," Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch wrote in November last year.

"He rose rapidly through the ranks and has done pretty much everything but."

Other contenders

"There's also other names like Todd Muller being suggested. He's a former Fonterra boss," Burr says.

"There are a few names floating around. But none of them stick out."

Amy Adams could also be a possibility.

"The former Justice Minister has already landed some solid strikes on the new Government and has been given portfolios that will continue to hit where it hurts - particularly Workplace Relations," Lynch wrote.

"Her move on Paid Parental Leave was a masterstroke."