Surprises in National reshuffle, questions if Bridges is an Abbott or English - political commentator

New National Party leader Todd Muller revealed his caucus reshuffle on Monday, and one political commentator found former deputy Paula Bennett's position a surprise.

Just three days after Muller rolled Simon Bridges as leader and Nikki Kaye took out Bennett as deputy, the new party leader announced a re-ordering of his caucus and the positions each member holds.

Muller appears to have struck a balance between promoting his allies - such as Nicola Willis jumping up 31 ranks and gaining Housing - and keeping some of those close to Bridges in key roles.

Bennett, for example, is at 13, keeping the Drug Reform and Women portfolios. Muller suggested on Monday that the former deputy is keen to continue in politics, something that has surprised political commentator Richard Harman.

"I am surprised that she has ended up with a list ranking as high as she did. I thought she would go. She was a minister for nine years," Harman told Newshub.

"The people she worked with, like Murray McCully and John Key and Bill English and so on, have all gone. She was beginning to look a bit like the last remnant of the Key Government, even though she is a relatively young woman.

"I thought she might seize the opportunity to get out and do something else, but no, she hasn't."

Also of interest to Harman, who runs the Politik website, was Michael Woodhouse, another Bridges ally, staying in the Health portfolio. 

"I was surprised [that] Michael Woodhouse kept Health. I was expecting Shane Reti to get that position, but beyond that, it is pretty much business as usual."

While Harman was aware of speculation of her return to the top, Amy Adams, who announced her retirement from politics last year, surprised some by skyrocketing to number 3 in the rankings and gaining the COVID-19 recovery portfolio. 

Harman said that showed the National Party was returning to the centre.

"She is a liberal, during the abortion law reform debate, she attacked the Christian conservatives in her party, and that was seen as highly significant, so she is yet another Liberal part of this party," he said.

"This is a move to the centre by National. It is a move which sees the Liberal dominate the party."

While Muller has voted against abortion reform and euthanasia, and is opposed to the legalisation of cannabis, Harman said he too reflects a more Liberal National. 

"Because Muller has voted conservative on the conscience issues, I don't think he is correct to say he is not a Liberal. On all the other issues, you will find Todd Muller is more Liberal than Simon Bridges, and I'm thinking of issues here like Treaty settlements, climate change, the environment generally, and possibly even some economic issues," he said.

"Muller positioned himself at the centre, rather than Bridges, who was more right-wing."

One person without a ranking in the shuffle was Bridges, who Muller told reporters was taking time to consider his future. 

Bridges quickly hit back at that, telling Newshub: "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."

Harman said it should be expected for a former leader to take some time out. 

"It's general, I think, when a leader has been rolled, that they spend a period of time out of the fray, because, obviously, it is an emotional time and they just need a bit of time to themselves."

How Bridges acts under Muller's leadership will now be of immense interest, with Harman referencing two different models of how former leaders behave under new management. 

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for example, spent the nearly three years after Malcolm Turnbull rolled him opposing or jeopardising many of Turnbull's policies, particularly on climate change action. Bill English, however, hunkered down in Education and Finance roles after being taken out by Don Brash in 2003. English would go on to work his way back to the top, becoming Prime Minister in 2016.

"You can take the Tony Abbott approach from Australia and seek to undermine the leader and create turmoil in the party, or alternatively, you can take the Bill English approach, which is to accept the leadership change and just get on with it," Harman said.

"It is too early to say which approach Bridges is going to take."

Muller and the new-look National Party will appear in the House for the first time on Tuesday at 2pm.