National deputy leader Nikki Kaye has outlined the precise reasons why she and Todd Muller rolled Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett just months before the upcoming election.
Negative approval ratings, feedback and a plummeting party vote all played a part, she told Newshub Nation on Saturday.
Before the pandemic hit, National was riding high - still the most popular party in Parliament, scoring 43.3 percent in February's Newshub-Reid Research poll. Labour was on 42.5 percent.
But the most recent poll a few weeks ago showed Labour surging to 56.5 percent and National plummeting to 30.6.
Even more damaging for Bridges perhaps were what voters said about him - 'idiot', 'average', 'dickhead' 'weak' and 'annoying' among the most common terms. His preferred Prime Minister ranking was below 5 percent, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 59.5 percent.
Bridges told Newshub he "absolutely" would lead National into the election, despite the poor result. Four days later, he was rolled.
"I didn't believe that he could win," Kaye said. "I think there were a number of things - part of it was we saw the public polls in terms of his approval... Part of it was his negative approvals, part of it was the feedback from the public, part of it was our party vote...
"This isn't' tiddlywinks. We are fighting for our future."
She denied plotting for months.
"That is not correct at all. What I can say to you is, as I've said before, we were looking at the polls - and that was not a year. It was not even months. We literally were waiting to see what that polling information showed."
Even on 43.3 percent National would struggle to form a Government, likely needing a coalition partner to form a majority in Parliament. New Zealand First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been publicly disagreeing with his own Government's slow move to pandemic alert level 1, perhaps setting himself up as king - or queen - maker again.
But Kaye said there had been no change yet to National's long-standing policy of not working with Peters.
"Our current policy is no. Our current policy is no. Our current policy is no."