Rumours of frustration within the National Party towards Simon Bridges' response to the lockdown extension decision have again created uncertainty about his hold on the leadership.
The AM Show host Duncan Garner reported on Wednesday morning that a National Party insider had told him MPs were being canvassed to understand how much support there was for a leadership challenge by Mark Mitchell and Paula Bennett.
Bridges told Garner rumours of a potential coup are untrue, while Bennett has also said they have no factual basis. Mitchell says Bridges has his full support in the job.
In response to the speculation, The AM Show ran a poll asking readers "Who do you think should be the leader of the National Party?". It presented four options: Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett, Judith Collins and Mark Mitchell.
This poll isn't scientific and shouldn't be viewed as an accurate representation of all New Zealand. It only reflects the opinions of those who decided to engage.
At 10:45am, after the poll was active for roughly five hours and had received more than 13,500 votes, Collins was supported by 39 percent of participants (5233 votes), followed by Mitchell on 30 percent (4042 votes), Bennett on 16 percent (2261 votes) and Bridges on 15 percent (2033 votes).
Bridges said on The AM Show that he spoke to Bennett and Mitchell multiple times per day and was sure he wasn't about to be rolled as leader.
"No, I think you and I know the blessing of being an Opposition leader is to have these sort of stories from time to time," Bridges said.
Bennett tweeted on Wednesday morning that speculation was based on people being bored.
"I get people are bored & looking for entertainment but false speculating on the leadership of the Nat party has no factual basis. Can’t believe a tweet from a known stirring leftie is getting any pick up! Move on, we back Simon. We have a health crises & an economy to fix," she said.
Mitchell said Bridges was working very hard in the role and had his support.
"My job is to support and look after my electorate. To get us through the lockdown in the best shape possible. That is where my focus is. Simon is working very hard as Leader of the opposition, it’s an important job, he has my full support. Stay Safe everyone," he tweeted.
Bridges said his focus was on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. While leading National's response, he has also been chairing Parliament's Epidemic Response Committee.