NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins working to rebuild National after massive defeat

The National Party is scouring through the wreckage of its campaign to try and find political survivors and learn exactly how it all went so wrong.

The party received 26.8 percent of the vote to Labour's 49.

But amid the election night blues was a crowd at National's headquarters trying to be jubilant for leader Judith Collins.

"Anyone would think we'd won," she told a cheering crowd on Saturday.

"We always knew it was going to be tough, didn't we."

But tough is an understatement. Twelve National MPs have lost their jobs, and a range of Māori and Pasifika MPs weren't high enough on the list to return.

"For those who did not plan to leave Parliament, can I say how sorry I am," Collins said.

"I hate seeing good MPs lose their jobs."

But she could be one of them. The National Party caucus is brutal, and if leaders don't perform, they go. 

"It's always up to caucus and, after all, the caucus asked me to take on a job."

Collins insists she is not going anywhere.

"The right thing to do is to provide stability to a party that needs it.

"The fact that we had three leaders in four months was, I have to say, challenging."

NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins working to rebuild National after massive defeat
Photo credit: Getty Images

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee told it like it is on Sunday.

"This year particularly [was] just an absolute shocker."

Brownlee lost the Ilam seat he's held for 24 years. He said he'll be thinking about whether he's going to stay on in Parliament over the coming days.

He said he has regrets from his campaign, including his dip into COVID-19 conspiracies during New Zealand's second wave.

"Those sorts of things occur particularly when you're a party under pressure. I deeply regret my comments."

And Collins also candidly cracked open the vault, letting slip the poll numbers the rest of her caucus had been so desperate to see.

"I'll tell you some secrets, okay," she said on Sunday.

"We were at about 39 to 40 before that second lockdown. That second lockdown just went 'poof'."

She also revealed the immediate hit of National MP Denise Lee's leaked email affected the party's numbers.

"You know that little leak that was out - cost us five points."

The party is a mess and Collins knows it, but she wants to fix it.

"Let's not waste the next three years thinking about ourselves… We'll be back."