Analysis: Todd Muller's National reshuffle reeks of strategy

In revealing his new-look National Party, Todd Muller has also revealed his strategic streak, promoting friend and foe alike - but he's still making clear he's the boss, with some pointed demotions. 

Muller has brought back senior MP Amy Adams from retirement to lead National's COVID-19 response. But a text from Simon Bridges to Newshub reveals all is not united within the caucus - the former leader vowing to stay on and fight. 

The reshuffle reeks of strategy.

It makes a statement when you resurrect an MP from retirement for a brand new job. Adams is back - in charge of COVID-19 recovery, with Muller describing her as "tough and tested".

Not quite a year ago, Adams was in tears as she stepped down.

At the time, she promised it had nothing to do with her boss Bridges, whom she said had her 100 percent support. Fast-forward to a couple of days after a new boss takes over, and Adams is back.

When Newshub asked if she truly meant it when she said stepping down wasn't about Bridges, Adams said: "Absolutely, I've always been very loyal to Simon as the leader.

"But if I can be of any part of helping New Zealand tackle these challenges, then that's something I'm prepared to defer getting my life back for, for a bit longer."

After himself, his deputy and the resurrected Adams, Muller has put Judith Collins in the same spot Bridges had her. Both leaders know to keep her close.

Collins loses her housing portfolio but takes on economic and regional development.

Paul Goldsmith - a loyal Bridges foot-soldier - drops a few places but keeps the finance portfolio, while Gerry Brownlee keeps foreign affairs and is in charge of National's election campaign.

"The National Party caucus is bursting with talent," Muller said.

He's been careful not to burn Bridges' backers, so also on his front bench is Michael Woodhouse - he's promoted up two in the rankings and holds onto his health portfolio.

Mark Mitchell drops a few spots but keeps his roles, and Bridges' numbers man Todd McClay is there.

Then here's the power play: Paula Bennett, the loyal former deputy, is demoted but still on the prized front bench in Parliament.

Muller may have backed Bridges' buddies, but Bridges himself fell off the list completely - with just a footnote explaining why.

"He has simply asked for a bit of time - which I think is perfectly understandable to be honest - to reflect with his family as to what the future holds for him," Muller said.

Except Bridges sent a text to Newshub almost immediately, saying: "Gidday, just to be clear after the reshuffle today, I am not considering my future... Just having a small amount of time out to take stock after the loss on Friday."

Muller said: "If Simon Bridges chooses to put his hand up again and stand as the MP for Tauranga, he will be a part of a Todd Muller-led National Cabinet."

The two MPs that helped Muller overthrow Bridges were duly rewarded.

Chris Bishop moves up three places and adds infrastructure to his portfolios. But most richly rewarded of the day goes to Nicola Willis, who moves up 31 places and takes over the mammoth task of housing.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wished National well, but also offered up a burn, comparing her current opponents to the administration Labour was up against in Opposition.

"I wish them well in their recovery as an Opposition. Obviously they're not the party of [John] Key and [Bill] English now - they're having to rebuild."