Simon Bridges believes "a tough few weeks" are behind National's low support in a recent poll and insists he and Christopher Luxon aren't working to roll Judith Collins.
The latest UMR poll results emerged on Thursday, with NZ Herald reporting ACT's David Seymour had overtaken Collins in the preferred Prime Minister stakes. UMR is Labour's pollster, but this poll was conducted for corporate clients.
It has Labour's Jacinda Ardern at 55 percent, Seymour at 12 percent and Collins at 10 percent. On the party vote, Labour sits at 48 percent, National is at 24 percent, ACT is at 11 percent and the Greens sit at 8 percent.
There is already fresh speculation about what the results may mean for the National Party leadership, with The AM Show host Duncan Garner on Friday saying it won't be lost on Collins' rivals.
"Simon Bridges will probably frame it and send copies to everyone and Christopher Luxon will think, is now the time to go for the job? Why not?" Garner said in an editorial.
There was chatter earlier this year that Bridges, the former National Party leader who was rolled last year by Todd Muller, and Luxon, the former Air New Zealand head honcho, may be forming a ticket.
Bridges was asked on The AM Show whether the UMR poll was a "trigger point" for him and Luxon to step in. He replied, "No, I don't think so".
The host later pushed the question, with Bridges simply saying: "I support Judith Collins as leader".
Garner: "Are you and Christopher Luxon doing anything behind the scenes to go in as a ticket?"
Garner: "I am meant to believe you on this?"
Garner: "So, you guarantee you are not doing any work behind the scenes?"
Collins has consistently said she has the full support of her caucus and has dismissed the latest poll.
Bridges said on Friday there were a number of reasons National had seen its support dip. On the UMR poll, National is below its horror election result of 25.6 percent. In the May Newshub-Reid Research poll, National recorded 27 percent support.
"It has been a tough few weeks. I think Judith is right in that regard. The context is a tough election, about COVID. You don't expect people to wake up - and there were millions - and say, we were so wrong at the election," Bridges said.
"I think what is also true is National needs to not be looking like it's focused on itself but focused on New Zealand and its issues. We know there are a lot of issues."
The National Party has been rocked by a multitude of scandals recently, such as candidate Jake Bezzant allegedly impersonating his ex-girlfriend online by sending other men nude images of her as well as questions about how both Nick Smith and Todd Muller's resignations came about.
He said Seymour had been "flattered" by that "tough period" for National.
The Tauranga MP also said the poll wasn't all good news for the Government.
"The other thing that came through on the poll is people are increasingly seeing New Zealand go in the wrong direction. Things like COVID, hate speech, mental health," he said.
But Labour MP David Parker, appearing alongside Bridges on The AM Show, said the poll was a total vote of confidence.
"How can you say that? This poll is so overwhelming a vote of confidence in the Government. The reason for that is people, they know they have freedoms most other people don't have. They know our economy is performing better and has bounced back post-COVID probably amongst the best in the world, and they know we are ramping up the vaccine."