'Useless' MP Maureen Pugh says it was an 'easy choice' not to vote for Simon Bridges

A National MP Simon Bridges once called "f***ing useless" says it was an "easy choice" not to vote for him in Friday's leadership spill.

Todd Muller took the reins of the party after challenging Bridges, who has been struggling in the polls - taking his party to below 30 percent in one recent poll. 

Pugh, who has twice entered Parliament on National's list after higher-ranked MPs resigned, told Stuff she voted for both Muller and his new deputy, Nikki Kaye, who replaced Paula Bennett.

"I have gotten to know Todd as a good person and decent person. Those are the traits I look for in a leader," she said, claiming Bridges' comments didn't influence her decision. 

But then she added: "You don't talk like that about your friends or colleagues if you are a decent person. It was an easy choice."

Bridges made the comments in a phone call to former National MP Jami-Lee Ross, when the latter was the party's chief whip. Ross released a recording of the call in 2018, when he and Bridges had a major falling out, which eventually led to Ross being kicked out of the party.

In the same call, Bridges said it would "be nice" to have a couple more Chinese MPs and get rid of Pugh, David Carter and Chris Finlayson.

Simon Bridges with Maureen Pugh.
Simon Bridges with Maureen Pugh. Photo credit: Simon Bridges/Twitter

Bridges later apologised for the comments about Pugh, who said it was "gratifying" to see Muller take the leadership.

Pugh was ranked 44th on the National Party list in 2017. If National polls 30.8 percent in September - as it did in this week's Newshub-Reid Research poll - and she fails to win the West Coast-Tasman electorate, she will be out of Parliament.