Still leaking: Details of National Party leadership caucus meeting revealed

Newshub has been leaked details of the National Party leadership caucus meeting. 

The National Party called the emergency meeting on Tuesday night after former leader Todd Muller resigned suddenly. Judith Collins emerged victorious with her deputy Gerry Brownlee. 

The secret ballots went like this: first up was the leader role with Judith Collins verses Mark Mitchell. Three people were pitching for deputy - Louise Upston withdrew when Collins won the first round, leaving Brownlee versus Paul Goldsmith. 

The details came from National MPs who are still leaking to Newshub. 

One National MP reflected on the caucus meeting saying, "It was a bit rich getting a lecture in loyalty and unity when those two [Collins and Brownlee] leaked so much in the past". 

Another said, "A lot of dead rats had to be swallowed..."

"Judith has been disloyal to everyone but there was so much fear in caucus that we'd lose worse than 2002."

That was National's worst defeat ever - 21 percent under Bill English. 

Collins emerged from the meeting on Tuesday night with her caucus standing around her, saying she felt "elated". 

With the caucus divided and damaged it was a gallant attempt to show unity. 

But the love-fest - and boy was it a love fest - didn't last long, with the return of Collins' alter-ego 'Crusher'. 

"I am sort of hoping that the National Party will collectively crush the other lot come September 19," she said. 

And not just the Government - in her first act as leader, Collins crushed an MP. Michael Woodhouse was stripped of his health portfolio on Wednesday. 

The axe was already hanging as he showed up at Parliament for work. \

The National Party caucus emerging from Judith Collins' victory.
The National Party caucus emerging from Judith Collins' victory. Photo credit: Getty

"I'm looking forward to another good day and I'm sure I'll be having a chat to the leadership team and the caucus," he told media on his way in. 

Woodhouse was at the centre of the scandal that ended Todd Muller and Hamish Walker's careers. He received leaked COVID-19 case details from ex-National Party president Michelle Boag. He didn't disclose them and he deleted them. 

Collins said on Wednesday it would have been "better" if Woodhouse had advised the Health Minister straight away. 

Dr Shane Reti now takes over the health portfolio - the gig he's been pining for. 

"However I can help New Zealanders - that's what I'd like to do," Reti told reporters.  

The promotion brings Dr Reti to the front bench helping National a bit with that Pākehā problem

But with promotion comes demotion - and that can seed discord.

Newshub asked Collins if she is confident her MPs will not leak against her. 

"Well, I don't know if they will or not," she replied, "but I'd say that it wouldn't be that helpful if they want to be re-elected."

Despite that threat, it turns out they will. 

But knowing she'd sure-up the National Party base the caucus backed Collins and her loyal deputy Gerry Brownlee.

The new deputy, sanding behind Collins on Tuesday night, insisted the top spot is not something he wants. He ruled it out. 

But, with a grin, Brownlee added, "There's always an opportunity."

Collins laughed and said to expect a few jokes from them. 

Now the next competition begins as Collins takes on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

Collins listed a few reasons why she thinks she's the better option for New Zealand's leader.

"I'd say experience, toughness and the ability to make decisions."

But Collins is Ardern's fourth National leader opponent to date. 

"I have to admit that I don't really sit down and analyse them all," Ardern said on Wednesday. 

Except, the Prime Minister has always kept an eye on Collins. After a Newshub poll last year when Simon Bridges was National leader, Ardern tried for a cheeky check-in on Collins. 

"What are Judith's numbers?" she asked with a grin.  

We'll find out on September 19. 

Collins admits it's a "big job" but says she's "very proud" to be the new National leader.

Analysis from Political Editor Tova O'Brien

After some swift and brutal action from Judith Collins on day one, what else is coming?

In the immediate short-term a reshuffle - that's on Thursday. She's playing down expectations saying it won't be mega. 

In the longer term, that's anyone's guess, but one thing's for certain - it will not be dull. 

Collins has a lot going for her but there's baggage there too. Uniting the caucus is priority number one and Tuesday's leaks are a bad sign. 

But her biggest challenge is winning. She's popular with the right - the true blue base - but elections are won and lost in the centre.

As one National MP put to me on Tuesday: "Are we in a better position than we were a week ago? [Expletive] yes... But I still think it's hard odds to win the election."