Sir John Key refuses to rule out giving Judith Collins advice for leadership bid

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key is refusing to rule out giving Judith Collins behind-the-scenes advice for a leadership bid against Simon Bridges

It was the National Party's annual conference at the Christchurch Town Hall on Saturday, where Bridges revealed a mini rebrand.

A new promotional video was shown off heralding a new National Party motto promising a focus from the party on "you".

It's a marked shift from last year's party conference and video which was all about Bridges.

His wife, Natalie, introduced him at the conference and says the party isn't all about him.

"Sometimes he's a buffoon," she said. "He's got a bloody fantastic Kiwi accent".

Bridges was also cheered on by Sir John - aka the messiah of the National Party.

But Bridges insists the new bottom-line focus on Kiwis isn't because he's failing to personally resonate with voters the way Sir John did.

Asked if he would ever be as popular as Sir John, Bridges said: "Hey, let's see what happens." Sir John hopes Bridges is more popular.

Collins seemed to be outright courting popularity and attention with her choice of National Party headwear.

"If I'd only bought a bigger handbag I could've put it in there," she said, though she turned down an offer to replace it with a Make America Great Again cap.

Asked if Collins would make a decent leader, Sir John said many people could make good leaders.

"There are always lots of people who could make a great leader but in the end we have a fantastic leader and it's called Simon Bridges."

Could Collins be one of those leaders? "Lots of people might be," Sir John said.

In April, at the peak of agitation against Bridges' leadership, Newshub revealed Sir John had shown Collins some behind-the-scenes support.

"Look, I talk to all sorts of MPs who ring me about a range of issues," he said on Saturday, when asked if he had given her any support. He said it wasn't his job to give Collins support for a leadership bid.

Collins said she and Sir John spoke about a range of things - and when Sir John talks, the National Party listens.

On Sunday, Newshub understands National is announcing its cancer plan, and this week Bridges accepted a petition calling for a Government cancer agency.


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