Todd Muller, Nikki Kaye to challenge for National Party leadership - source

Newshub understands Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye will challenge Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett for the National Party leadership.

Bridges confirmed on Wednesday morning that he understood two MPs were looking to challenge him and his deputy. He confirmed his leadership would be put to the test by Tuesday at the latest. That is when the party is meant to hold its next caucus meeting.

"There is a focus on the leadership of the National Party. I understand that two of my colleagues will challenge, want to and seek to challenge, Paula Bennett and I for the leadership and the deputy leadership of the National Party," the current leader told The AM Show.

He refused to say who the MPs were, how he came to know of the challenge, or if he had spoken to the MPs directly.

"I think it is for them to state their leadership intentions. I want to give them the dignity of being able to make their statements," Bridges told The AM Show on Wednesday morning.

"I am very confident that I will win, but I do want to put it to the test as I say, so we can quickly resolve this and get back to the things that matters for New Zealanders."

But a source told The AM Show the MPs are Muller, the Bay of Plenty MP, and Kaye, who represents Auckland Central.

Newshub has approached both for comment.

National received the support of only 30.5 percent of respondents in the latest Newshub-Reid-Research poll. Labour, on the other hand, received 56.5 percent. 

In terms of preferred Prime Minister stakes, Jacinda Ardern is at 59.5 percent, while Bridges is at 4.5 percent.

The poll immediately sparked leadership questions. 

Hamilton East MP David Bennett received an email on Monday night obtained by Newshub. The sender's email subject line said: "Time to roll Simon. Landslide loss in September otherwise". Bennett replied: "Yeah working on it."

Other MPs spoke to Newshub on Tuesday.

  • "He'll be destroyed in the election campaign"
  • "There's no way he can survive... There's definitely going to be a vote of no confidence on Tuesday"
  • "When Simon speaks the public puts on the metaphorical mute button"
  • "It's time to move"

Former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger has expressed his support for Muller's ability.

"Todd worked in my office when I was Prime Minister, worked with me as a councillor on the university council at Waikato. He's a businessman of significant experience working with the biggest company - Fonterra - working with Zespri the kiwifruit exporter and so on," he told RNZ.

"He has a different range of skills, but they're going to be the totally relevant skills going forward."