Key tells Nats not to worry about Bridges' poll ratings

The National Party's annual conference weekend gets underway in Auckland on Saturday.

This will be the first time in nearly a decade that it will meet as the Opposition party.

Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien says it will be a different atmosphere, but the party won't show it.

"I don't think you're going to see a SkyCity full of a bunch of sobbing National Party grassroots supporters. I think there is still going to be a jubilant atmosphere… because you're getting a whole lot of like-minded people in the same room to preach to the converted. You'll still see a fairly jubilant atmosphere, but yes it will be different in Opposition."

All eyes are expected to be on leader Simon Bridges and how his party thinks he is performing.

"People are going to be watching to see how he's doing," says O'Brien. "His polling as preferred Prime Minister is abysmal… All eyes are going to be on him, and you cannot avoid as a new leader some talk around the fringes of leadership."

In the most recent Newshub-Reid Research poll, Mr Bridges was on 9 percent support as Prime Minsiter - well behind Jacinda Ardern on 40.2.

Former leader and Prime Minister Sir John Key will be there to give Mr Bridges his support.

"Of course there will always be a focus on his personal numbers, but preferred Prime Minister is, in many respects, a name recognition issue," he told NZME. "The incumbency gives you an enormous amount of benefit in that regard.

"Personally, I don't have any concerns at all about Simon's current personal numbers."

National remains the most popular party overall, but is struggling for potential coalition partners.

preferred PM
Photo credit: Newshub.

Several policy announcements are expected over the weekend.

"Hopefully we'll see a bit of a sense of what motivates him as a leader, where he's planning to take the party in 2020 and how that policy development will work," says O'Brien.

The conference is at SkyCity and will run throughout the weekend.

Newshub.