National MPs leaking: Internal polling number not shown to caucus since February

Simon Bridges is among those trying to hold onto their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis, as disgruntled National MPs leak and plot against him, with some saying internal polling numbers haven't been seen since February.

National MP Todd Muller is among the rumoured National Party leadership contenders, but the answer to the question of whether that's really a possibility is always no.

But when Newshub asked whether he'd run for leadership - he dodged.

"I need to stop puffing first. Those hills are tough."

Fellow leadership contender National MP Mark Mitchell ruled it out when Newshub put the question to him before National's caucus meeting on Tuesday morning.

"I'm definitely not running for leader, Simon's got my 100 percent support," he said.

But he may lose points for discussing the usually top-secret National Party caucus agenda, revealing that a letter from senior MP Nick Smith to Bridges taking issue with a captain's call Bridges made "might come up".

But Mitchell insisted that leadership is "not going to come up".

The whole caucus was copied into the letter from Smith and details of that letter were leaked to Newshub on Monday.

Bridges says that's "the way it goes" and that "we've been here before".

We have - several times  - but it didn't use to be like that. Under former Prime Minister and National Party leader Sir John Key, the National caucus was hermetically sealed.

Bridges told Newshub he is "not going to get distracted from a situation in New Zealand right now when we are in uncharted times" - a nod to the COVID-19 crisis which has dominated political affairs.

But soon after Tuesday's caucus, National MPs were at it again, leaking about the meeting, saying Bridges didn't share the party's regular internal polling numbers and telling Newshub they haven't seen them since around the caucus retreat in early February.

Newshub asked Bridges if he hasn't shown MPs the polling numbers because support for the National Party has fallen drastically.

"We don't discuss those matters in public and I don't expect to start now," he replied.

Except, of course, last year when the numbers were solid.

"The reality is we've always been over 40," he said in July 2019. "Right now I know that we're in the 40s - I wouldn't get hung up on a number."

As Parliament resumed for the first time since lockdown on Tuesday afternoon - socially distanced - Bridges was among MPs who reclaimed their seats and attempted to reclaim the stage.

Slogans were in full-effect, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern telling Kiwis to "be strong, be kind", and Bridges repeatedly saying he wants to "get New Zealand working again".

Bridges told Newshub he is dead-certain he will be taking on Ardern at the election.

"Yes, absolutely," he said. "That's quite clear."

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