Anti-Judith Collins camp within National Party may stop her becoming leader - Tova O'Brien

If Judith Collins does contend the National Party leadership, New Zealanders shouldn't rule out another contender trying to swoop in for the top role, according to Newshub's Political Editor.

Newshub has been approached by National MPs who spoke about concerns around Simon Bridges' leadership and that people are doing the numbers for Judith Collins to take over.

The politicians are pointing to several examples of how Bridges' leadership hasn't been up to scratch, criticising his handling of the so-called "emotional junior staffer" who took down a controversial United Nations Migration Compact petition as well as the Jami-Lee Ross saga.

Political Editor Tova O'Brien said it's clear there is disunity within the party's caucus.

"Caucus is supposed to be a kind of hermetically cone of silence, so the fact that the caucus is leaking, the fact that MPs are proactively coming to us and agitating against Simon Bridges and the fact the people are doing the numbers for Judith Collins is a real problem for Simon Bridges," she told The AM Show.

"As soon as there is this disunity and there are murmurings behind the scene, or openly to journalists as is the case now, that's when leadership to starts becoming destabilised."

Some MPs believe Bridges is safe while the National Party remains polling in the forties, but with the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll showing the party on 41.6 percent, O'Brien said "that is perilously close to the thirties".

"It is kinda a waiting game. Some members of the caucus say it could happen really quickly, some say it could be in months, others are saying he is still safe as long as he has a four in front of the party polling numbers, as long as National is still polling in the forties."

Calls for Collins to take over as leader have come as she surpassed Bridges as preferred Prime Minister in the recent Newshub-Reid Research poll.

February's Newshub-Reid Research poll.
February's Newshub-Reid Research poll. Photo credit: Newshub.

But even if she does stick her hand up with more supporters than she has had in previous leadership battles, that may not guarantee her the job.

"There are still a lot of MPs that don't necessarily support [Bridges] but do not support Judith Collins," said O'Brien.

"There is a kind of anyone but Judith camp growing and some people are saying she is delusional if she thinks she has those numbers."

O'Brien also believes it is possible that if Collins seeks the leadership, another contender may swoop in.

"There a lot of people in that caucus that just do not like her and do not want her to be the next leader of the National Party.

"If indeed she does make a move against Simon Bridges, someone else might come in there and try and prevent her from being the next leader of the National Party."

Collins wouldn't return calls from O'Brien on Wednesday morning, but some MPs say she isn't making any proactive moves.

"She is not taking my calls this morning, so nothing from Judith Collins this morning, but other MPs are kinda speaking on her behalf in a way by saying that the numbers are firming up… we are hearing she is not proactively seeking those numbers, that people are coming to her.

"Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but the fact is there is unease in this caucus, they are agitating against Simon Bridges' leadership."

If Bridges wants to remain as leader, he is going to need sort any issues out quick.

"He needs to nip that in the bud, he needs to address it, and at that caucus meeting on Monday morning he invited questions about his leadership, so this will come up in the caucus."

Whoever leads the party, they have work to do.

"Whoever the next leader is will need to galvanise that caucus and recreate that hermetically sealed cone of silence within the caucus and get everyone behind them.

Newshub.

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