Unhappy MPs should quit now, not after the election - Judith Collins

Judith Collins says she's not worried about the mass exodus of MPs from her party right before the election, saying she'd rather they left now than afterwards.

National has lost six MPs since the 2017 election and another 12 aren't seeking re-election in September. 

The party's been in turmoil in recent months, its polling dropping below 30 percent and undergoing two leadership changes in as many months. After Collins took the reins on Tuesday, veterans Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye abruptly quit. 

Adams' role in developing COVID recovery policy was scrapped, prompting her to quit, and Kaye - who until Tuesday was the party's deputy leader - said it was "the right time for me to leave".

"Cancer has taught me that life can change in a moment and I am ready for the next chapter."

Collins told Newshub Nation on Saturday while personally disappointed to see them go, it's best they did sooner rather than later.

"I would rather that people chose to leave if they're not completely committed to a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job that takes a massive toll. I'd rather that they did that this side of the election than the other side of the election. 

"I think that's pretty much the message, and I don't see that anyone would disagree with that, would they?"

It's not clear if Collins was taking a dig at the man she replaced, Todd Muller, who infamously declined an interview the previous week reportedly because he needed a "cup of tea and a lie down". 

Tova O'Brien and Judith Collins.
Tova O'Brien and Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Collins denied rumours Adams and Kaye quit because they didn't want to work under her leadership. 

"They both asked me to put my name forward. They are very, very fine people and both Amy, Nikki and I have worked together over the years. I'm actually really personally fond of them and I have great respect for them... I am personally disappointed that both of them have decided to retire - but that is life. Life isn't always what you plan, and I know that they are backing me and they're backing the National Party to win." 

Newshub Nation host Tova O'Brien told Collins MPs were still leaking, suggesting the caucus wasn't entirely united behind her. 

"Make no mistake - she is a placeholder leader," one unnamed MP told O'Brien. "There will be a change after the election if she loses it."

Collins said she had "no intention" of losing, and refused to consider a situation in which she too might have to quit.

"It's not going to happen. There's no point in me talking about stuff that's not going to happen. I'm not worrying about stuff that's not going to happen. I'm not here to get second. I'm here to win. That's what I'm after."

She said cracking 40 percent in the party vote is "not going to be a problem".

Recent polling has the party around 30 percent or below, with Labour's popularity at record highs following the successful health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.