NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins denies suggestion Bennett, Tolley resignations show senior MPs have no faith National will win

The resignations of National's former deputy leader Paula Bennett and veteran MP Anne Tolley are not indicative of senior caucus members jumping ship ahead of the election, argues Judith Collins.

The Papakura MP - who is currently ranked number four in the National caucus - flatly rejected Magic Talk host Peter Williams' suggestion that the high-profile resignations are indicative of National's inability to win the general election this September.

Last week, the National Party saw a bump in the first political poll since former leader Simon Bridges was rolled by Todd Muller in May. The 1News Colmar Brunton poll had National up by nine points to 38, while Labour had dropped by nine to 50.

It was revealed on Monday that Bennett, who was replaced by Nikki Kaye during the leadership takeover, will not be standing in the general election and intends to leave Parliament. The 51-year-old, who served as Deputy Prime Minister to Bill English from December 2016 to October 2017, announced it was "time for the next chapter".

It follows the resignation of East Coast MP Anne Tolley on Saturday after a 21-year career in Parliament.

Judith Collins denied the suggestion that high-profile party resignations are indicative of a lack of faith in National's ability to win the election.
Judith Collins denied the suggestion that high-profile party resignations are indicative of a lack of faith in National's ability to win the election. Photo credit: Getty

"Do you see the loss of both Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett in the last four days as signs that senior people inside the National Party believe you can't and won't win this year's election?" Williams asked Collins, who serves as the spokesperson for economic development, regional development and Pike River re-entry.

"Not at all. Both of them announced some time [ago] that they were giving up their very good electorate seats," Collins said.

"My experience in politics tells me that electoral MPs, like myself and both of them, do not give up their seats unless they're looking to the future and moving out to something else.

"I know they stated that they were too busy doing other things, but I know how attached I am to my electorate, and I know I would never give it up unless I was about to leave Parliament."

Late last year, Tolley expressed interest in becoming Speaker of the House, saying she would give up her East Coast seat and go list-only. The 67-year-old, who has held the role since 2005, said she expects her proposed replacement Tania Tapsell will win the seat. 

"My husband has lived a political widower's life, too often taking second place to the needs of my job. So the time has come for me to put life with him and our family first and to do the things we've talked about but struggled to fit into a busy political schedule," Tolley said in Saturday's statement.

Anne Tolley.
Anne Tolley. Photo credit: Newshub

Bennett also announced her intention not to seek re-election for Upper Harbour last year, declaring in August that she wanted to focus on her new role as National's campaign chair. However, Bennett lost the position following her and Bridges' ousting in May, with Muller appointing senior MP Gerry Brownlee in the role. Despite holding on to her drug reform and women portfolios, Bennett was pushed down the party ranks to number 13.

In Monday's announcement, the former deputy leader said she intended to enter "the business world" and wished current Upper Harbour candidate Jaze Bezzant "all the best" in the upcoming election.

Bridges lost his National Party leadership during an emergency caucus meeting on May 22 following the devastating results of the Newshub-Reid Research poll, which showed less than 5 percent of New Zealanders wanted Bridges as Prime Minister.

Collins' new book Pull No Punches will be available in stores on Wednesday. 

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