National MPs already leaking as new leadership team of Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye suffers disastrous first sitting day

Watch Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien's report. Credit: Image - Getty; Video - Newshub

Newshub has been told by National MPs the new leadership is demanding loyalty after details of leader Todd Muller's new staffing line-up were leaked to Newshub over the weekend.

And despite that demand of loyalty, the top-secret fortress that is the National Party caucus is already leaking like a sieve - several have shared details of the closed-door meeting with Newshub.

Newshub has been informed that the leadership basically threatened caucus not to leak because they will have ways of finding out. 

MPs are not only leaking against Muller and his deputy Nikki Kaye, but speaking out against them, with one telling Newshub the leadership's claim MP Paul Goldsmith is Māori was "embarrassing and quite frankly appalling".

That claim about Goldsmith was made while the leadership struggled to defend the lack of diversity among its top team - with no Māori MPs on the front bench. 

The white front-bench is a "big step backwards especially when National is trying to appeal to a wider audience" and "it looks very pale", the MP said. 

It comes as National's new leadership team had a disastrous first sitting day at Parliament.

In an attempt to defend having zero Māori MPs in their top 12, the pair wrongly identified Pākehā MP Paul Goldsmith as Māori.

Muller's first day in the parliamentary driver's seat - Simon Bridges' old seat - got off to a good start, as he walked into his first caucus meeting with confidence.

"Can I firstly say this is a very exciting day," he said after the meeting.

Muller even ditched the controversial 'Make America Great Again' cap he had on display in his office, saying he "packed it up in a box when it left the office and it will stay in a box".

But then came questions about National's white-washed frontbench. National's reshuffled list was unveiled on Monday revealing no Māori MPs in Muller's top 12.

Newshub asked Muller on Tuesday how many Māori MPs there are in his Shadow Cabinet, and he listed Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti and former deputy leader Paula Bennett.

But Muller's deputy added, "Paul Goldsmith is obviously of Ngāti Porou descent."

The problem is no one told Paul Goldsmith.

The Epsom-based MP told Newshub he is not Māori and that was passed on to Kaye, who then went to check with him.

After the pair deliberated, Kaye said Goldsmith "does have Ngāti Porou descent".

But Goldsmith interjected, saying: "No, no, no I'm not Māori myself."

Goldsmith later clarified: "My great-grandfather had European wives and Māori wives and so I've got lots of relatives across the Ngāti Porou - I don't claim to be Māori myself."

It means Bennett - who was brutally rolled on Friday along with Bridges - is now National's most senior Māori MP and she's ranked 13th.

Bennett isn't staying quiet. As she emerged from National's caucus meeting alongside Judith Collins, Bennett told the gathered media: "She'll be needed in caucus more than I will."

She's now outranked by Collins who is number four.

And when Bennett found out National's new leadership team held up Goldsmith as an example of a Māori MP in National's top 12, the former deputy leader laughed.

"Paul? Okay... right... yeah."

Her surprise was matched by MPs throughout Parliament.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters joked: "I hadn't heard of Paora Heke Goldsmith until this morning."

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones described it as "sloppy" and said he found it "very rude".

He even delivered a mihi in Parliament on Goldsmith's behalf, "ko te Sky Tower toku whare", which roughly translates to "the Sky Tower is my home".

In another mishap for National, MP Dr Shane Reti - ranked 17 on National's list - was promoted to the front bench. But it was only for a second - when Nikki Kaye said he was in National's top 14.

Newshub asked Kaye if she was sure about that, to which she replied: "No, he isn't he's 17, right."

And for a second Bridges was promoted back to leader, after Muller-supporter National MP Nicola Willis said she was looking forward to his first clash in the House with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"You will see Simon Bridges do that in a very serious way," she said, before correcting herself.

National's lack of diversity is a problem not just because it lacks diversity - which is a big problem - but also it entrenches old stereotypes about the party that it's been trying to shake off.

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