Despite Simon Bridges believing his MPs were unified behind him after Tuesday's caucus meeting, Newshub's Political Editor doesn't believe rumours of a leadership challenge are close to being finished.
On Tuesday, Bridges faced his caucus for the first time since rumours began before the Easter break that there was discontent with his leadership.
- Newshub understands Sir John Key has shown support for Judith Collins
- Judith Collins refuses to say she's loyal to National leader Simon Bridges
- National MPs speaking out against leader Simon Bridges
Newshub was told before the break that numbers for MP Judith Collins to become leader were firming and there was frustration within the party over Bridges' handling of issues like the Jami-Lee Ross saga, the so-called emotional junior staffer, and the party's review of bullying.
But after Tuesday's caucus meeting, Bridges confirmed he was still the leader and "it feels good".
"I'm not going to talk about what happened, but I'm really confident. I've got a strong, united caucus, and I'm rearing to get on with the job," Bridges said.
But within minutes of that meeting, some of his MPs were already leaking to Newshub about a warning from National's leadership not to speak Newshub's Political Editor Tova O'Brien.
"Although Simon Bridges came out saying 'the caucus is unified behind my leadership', why then were National Party MPs leaking to Newshub within minutes of that closed door caucus meeting, leaking details such as 'do not talk to the media'." she told The AM Show.
"Almost immediately after that caucus meeting, they were doing just that.
"So that doesn't bode well for Simon Bridges in terms of nipping this in the bud and cauterising camp Collins and that chattering and murmuring that we have been hearing that the numbers have been firming up for Judith Collins."
She said there are two distinct camps within the party, and each believes the other side is "delusional".
"Camp Collins think the numbers are firming up for her and actually think that conversation in caucus yesterday galvanised more MPs that weren't in her corner but moved them over to her.
"On the other side, those in camp Bridges say that is absolutely delusional, look back at the last leadership races, Collins had bugger all votes in her favour and that's the way it is again now."
Collins ran for the leadership following the resignation of former Prime Minister Sir Bill English, but failed to gain support from the wider party.
But O'Brien said things are different now, with more MPs openly talking to Newshub about Bridges - even if they don't support Collins, they don't like Bridges.
She said while Bridges may have survived Tuesday's face-off, "that doesn't mean it is over for Simon Bridges, it is not even close".
O'Brien said the leaks were particularly significant as National had traditionally been a disciplined party that hadn't had leadership issues when led by Sir John Key.
"This reeks of what we dealt with the Labour Party when they were in Opposition, we were getting the same anonymous quotes from Labour MPs trying to take down that person or this person or the other person."
On Tuesday, Newshub also revealed that it is understood Sir John has shown support behind the scenes for Collins.
Key would not confirm this to Newshub, only to say, "I don't comment on leadership issues" - but because of his standing in the party, MPs still go to him for advice and he commands huge respect in the National caucus.
"If he is giving some kind of tacit endorsement or even a slight nod in favour of Judith Collins, that is huge," said O'Brien.