National MPs have arrived at Parliament "disappointed" ahead of what's been described as a "sombre" caucus meeting to farewell their ousted colleagues after a landslide election loss.
National's senior whip Barbara Kuriger, who managed to keep her Taranaki-King Country electorate, said it's been "a bit rough" for National MPs and the caucus meeting will be "tough".
"We will move forward as a group, a group of 35 who will start working on our rebuild," she told reporters outside Parliament on Tuesday.
Kuriger said the caucus backs a review of the party's election campaign and is united behind leader Judith Collins, despite National MPs telling Newshub anonymously on Monday that a leadership coup is expected.
"We keep looking outside ourselves and we go 'it's Jacindamania, it's COVID, it's all of that sort of stuff.' But you know, as a party and a caucus, we have had a lot of things that have gone on in the last year that haven't really helped," Kuriger said.
"We have had the best players but we haven't had the best team. We need to look into all of those things to make sure we do better in the future."
National is saying goodbye to 12 MPs after the election. Five of them - Harete Hipango, Jonathan Young, Tim Macindoe, Lawrence Yule and Dan Bidois - lost their electorates to Labour.
Seven of them - Alfred Ngaro, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Parmjeet Parmar, Brett Hudson, Jo Hayes, Agnes Loheni and Paulo Garcia - have not made it back on the list because National only got 26.8 percent of the party vote.
Collins revealed on Sunday that National's internal polling showed it lost 5 percent after Newshub was leaked an email by National MP Denise Lee showing her being critical of the leader's intention to review Auckland Council.
Kuriger said the leaker needs to front up.
"I think there is no room in our caucus for anyone that is leaking," she said. "I stand in front of staff yesterday as the whip and say, 'look our resources are cutting down'. Some of them have lost their bosses. I just think some of those leakers don't think about that sort of stuff."
Her message to them: "Just stop it, shape up or get out. Absolutely. We have got no room for that sort of behaviour. We are only going to win if we are a team. I am focused on 2023. Everyone who remains in that room needs to be focused on 2023. That's where we have got to go."
Kuriger admitted it was "ironic" that National was selling itself as being a strong team during the election campaign.
"Yeah, it is a bit ironic because we weren't the best team."
But Kuriger said she doesn't think Collins needs to take responsibility for the loss.
"No, because we have had three different forms of leadership this year. We have also had a lot of other incidents. Ex-presidents, ex-board members, departing MPs, the leakers," she said.
"Judith had a very, very short time with which to pick us up. I admire it every day. She went out with a smile on her face. We knew we were up against it, we were going uphill. We didn't quite predict the result that we got as bad it was going to be. We will rebuild and I am here to help do that."
National MP Ian McKelvie, who has held on to his Rangitikei seat, said he was "sad" to see his colleagues go, but that it was just another day at the office.
"I think that certainly most of us are very united behind the leadership. I think she did an extraordinary job in what was a very difficult situation," he said of Collins.
"I think a very, very large percentage of the caucus is behind [the leader]. In fact, I would have hoped all of the caucus was behind our leader, and certainly from my experience of it, they are."
Bakshi said he will miss Parliament. He said the caucus needs to unite behind the leader, and dismissed talk of MP Mark Mitchell making a bid.
"I don't think so," he said. "Judith has done a good job and I hope that she will continue."
Macindoe, who has lost Hamilton West to Labour, said he was "obviously very disappointed" and struck out at the leakers.
"I think I will be urging them to realise that to be fit to govern you must be absolutely united, you must demonstrate a very clear vision for what is important and a strategy for helping govern to New Zealand through the most challenging times and also demonstrate fundamental decency," he said.
"You have to be a team who people can respect and who would want to have leading our nation."
He argued National still has a good team and that Collins is the right leader.
"Yes, we have got to get behind the leadership. The worst possible thing would be start getting the knives out at this point. Judith did a very good job under extraordinarily challenging circumstances," he said.
"When I say that we must be united, we have got to be united behind the person and the team. In fact, it is being united about everybody.
"I have a lot of praise for the job Judith did and would be very sorry if everyone started becoming so obsessed with themselves and leadership when what we have to do is demonstrate the strength we have had in the past when we were respected."
His message to leakers: "Shape up or ship out. Do not stick around thinking that you are in any way advancing the interests of the party by behaving in that despicable way. You have cost a number of people their jobs. You have cost New Zealand the opportunity to have an alternative Government. Until that stops, you won't be back."
Matt Doocey, who is humbled to have kept his Waimakariri seat, said it was a shame National is losing "such good people" and he urged the leakers to stop.
"I think if we can't manage ourselves, people aren't going to trust to manage the country. We have let ourselves down with internal discipline and we are going to have to address that."
He said the whole caucus should take responsibility for National's election result.
Lawrence Yule, who lost his Tukituki seat, said it "is what it is" but does partly blame the leakers for causing instability.
"I blame the culture of leaking that has besetted this whole time as a real problem for our caucus. I have never quite seen anything like it. "
Yule said undermining the party leads to trust levels dropping, and while he doesn't expect them to front up, he said the culture of leaking and backstabbing has been "very damaging to us".
He thinks Collins should stay on as leader.