Speed-dating with National's leadership hopefuls Judith Collins, Simon Bridges and Amy Adams

Judith Collins says she's the best person to lead National because she's the only contender who's been in Opposition before.

There's a three-way race to replace Bill English, who resigned as National Party leader earlier this week. Last year he led the party to election defeat for the second time.

The three hopefuls - Ms Collins, Amy Adams and Simon Bridges - appeared on The AM Show on Thursday morning to explain why they'd be best-placed to lead the party back into Government in 2020.

Judith Collins

The controversial former Minister of Police, Justice, Ethnic Affairs and Corrections says despite her recent slipping in the party's ranks, she has the backing of many National MPs.

"What I am confident of is there is a tremendous amount of support for my candidacy, and there's a tremendous amount of support for anyone who can beat a Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Government, and I know I can do that."

The AM Show Judith Collins
Judith Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

The 58-year-old dropped 10 places on the party's list in 2017, after a rough few years during which she was accused of undermining a public servant and was forced to - temporarily - resign her ministerial portfolios. She also made headlines thanks to her connections with controversial right-wing blogger Cameron Slater.

"I'm not somebody who you meet with and you wonder what is it that they think. I'm certainly someone who will say exactly what I think, and that's the sort of thing that this party now needs."

Despite being the lowest-ranked of the three, Ms Collins says she has the best experience to lead the party at this point in time.

"They haven't been in Opposition before," she said of Mr Bridges and Ms Adams.

"I've had six years in Opposition, and Leader of the Opposition is a significantly different role than being a minister. It's a very tough place, and you've got to be pretty tough to do it. We've seen plenty of people in the past fail."

She also appeared to take a swipe at her former leader, suggesting he didn't have it in him to lead the party without also being Prime Minister.

"We need to go to the level of Opposition, and there's a reason that Bill stood down... He knows what a tough and difficult place it is."

As for a deputy, Ms Collins says it'll be up to caucus.

Simon Bridges

If National wants a true generational shift in its leadership, Mr Bridges is the obvious choice. The 41-year-old says his youth shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of experience, however.

"I've got the right blend of both a new generation approach - I am younger than what we've seen before - but also a depth of experience. I've had a raft of portfolios - labour, energy, transport, economic development and a number of others as well. That blend is important and means I'm a good choice, I'm a right choice for the times."

The AM Show Simon Bridges
Simon Bridges. Photo credit: The AM Show

The sixth-ranked National MP says his party needs to use its spell in Opposition to note what the current Government has "got wrong".

"They spent nine years in Opposition, they didn't do the hard yards in terms of developing the people, progressing new talent and actually getting fresh ideas. We cannot do that. We cannot make that mistake."

As for his chances, the former Transport Minister feels "very strongly there are many MPs who want me to be the leader", and his "views and values and ambition" will get him over the line.

"[We need] someone who can develop and be part of bringing those new ideas that make us look like an alternative Government."

As for a deputy, he says "anything is possible" - including the possibility it could be him, if he fails to win the leadership.

Amy Adams

The former Minister of Justice, Communications and Courts says she has a different style to John Key and Bill English, one focused on "bringing people with me, raising up the people who are around me".

"It's not a party of one, it's not a party of the leader - the leader's job is to inspire the best out of everyone in their team."

The AM Show Amy Adams
Amy Adams. Photo credit: The AM Show

The 46-year-old is pitching herself as the "socially progressive" choice too, saying the party needs to change if it's going to win in 2020.

"We got 45 percent at the election, we're an incredibly popular party with the public and we certainly don't want to give away all of that strong support we've got in New Zealand, but we want to show New Zealand that we are a party that moves and evolves with the time."

One thing she perhaps would want to inherit from Mr English is his "sensible" approach to economic development.

"I grew up knowing that every single dollar the Government spends comes out of the pocket of a Kiwi who's got up hard to work it. I will always respect that every dollar we take has been earned by someone else, and we've got to spend it with every bit as much care as they would."

She wouldn't say if that would mean more funding for hospitals and education, or tax cuts.

"Our caucus is going to make all of those calls… What I'm not going to do now is cut across everything I've just said and make those calls ahead of where the caucus wants to go."

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