Self-described "has-been" Simon Bridges is feeling great he no longer has the "big weights" of the National Party leadership weighing him down.
Bridges was rolled in May, and has kept a fairly low profile since - generating more headlines for his social media posts involving yaks than attacks on the Government. Earlier this month he shared a tweet calling him "by some distance the happiest person in New Zealand", and posed for an amusing photograph carrying an ancient Commodore 64 computer like it was a ghettoblaster.
"The pressures and the perils of leadership are very tough, but I'm here - all care, no responsibility," he told The AM Show on Friday. "It's great."
Bridges, who led the party during most of its first term in Opposition, appeared on the show with David Parker, who was briefly the Labour Party's acting leader in 2014 after David Cunliffe quit, but defeated by Andrew Little when the party voted on a new boss.
The National Party's new leader Judith Collins was until this week a regular guest on The AM Show's Friday political panel with Labour's Willie Jackson, but clearly has more important things to do now.
Bridges wondered how The AM Show ended up with "a panel of has-beens" in their place.
"I'm looking forward to a yak with you," Parker told him.
"I'm just chuffed to be here, to be honest," Bridges replied. "To be on your show as a has-been, to be here with Davo."
AM Show host Duncan Garner noted Bridges seemed more relaxed and "smiley" than in past appearances.
"You take that mantle of leadership and suddenly you get these big weights on your shoulder," the Tauranga MP said.
National has lost a number of MPs in recent days - Hamish Walker forced out after getting tied up in the COVID-19 patient data leak scandal, and high-profile MPs from the party's liberal wing Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams abruptly retiring less than 48 hours after Collins was elected leader.
Bridges, who was dumped off the front bench during Todd Muller's brief rein but promoted back to fourth by Collins, seemed to be glad the exodus was not his responsibility to deal with.
"You've got 85 people - well not quite, let's say 25 people - telling you what to do," said Bridges. "They haven't gone, they're now working for Judith and she's doing a great job, but they're not my problem anymore."