I'm not 'dud jockey', says Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges has claimed National's continued high-flying in the polls proves he's not a "dud jockey".

The National Party leader's had a bruising first year in charge, but has made it to the end of the political year alive.

He told The AM Show 2018 was an "interesting, but good" year.

"I feel really good. I come out of the end of the year feeling stronger. I just say all credit to an amazing team we've got. I think whilst we've had some tough issues, at the end of it all we've always got back on the stuff that matters."

Those tough issues include the Jami-Lee Ross saga, his poor showing in polls for preferred Prime Minister and constant rumours of a leadership spill.

He managed only 7 percent in the latest Colmar-Brunton poll, despite National sitting on 46 percent.

"It's the party vote that matters. That is high," said Mr Bridges. "When you talk about the party vote, people don't back a horse if it's got a dud jockey. I think in truth we've got an amazing team under me, we're focused on what matters, and actually we're doing alright."

The controversy around Mr Ross was sparked by Mr Bridges' decision to hold an internal party inquiry into who leaked details of his spending to Newshub. The details were due to come out a few days later anyway, and the inquiry culminated in a week from hell which saw Mr Ross level criminal allegations at Mr Bridges

Having made it out the other side with his leadership intact, Mr Bridges says he has no regrets.

"Deeply, deeply, deeply honest: no way. It was absolutely the right thing to do. We had a problem, it resulted in an MP being expelled - right thing to do."

Jami-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges.
Jami-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges. Photo credit: Newshub.

He says he honestly didn't know who the leaker was, despite Mr Ross' claims it was a stitch-up.

"The truth is no, no I didn't... Sometimes real leadership means you've got to back your instincts. I believe in the end it was the right thing to do. I think what's important in these things is how you bounce back and how you deal with them - not what you're thrown. You're thrown some curveballs. For us that's got us back on issues, coming into Christmas, Kiwis worry about."

The AM Show host Duncan Garner said he spoke to a number of National MPs over the weekend, and believes there is no imminent threat to Mr Bridges' leadership - likely challenger Judith Collins not having the numbers to roll him.