National's Judith Collins has once again brushed off speculation her leadership is under threat from Simon Bridges.
Many of National's Auckland-based MPs are back in Wellington this week after Speaker Trevor Mallard earlier this month removed rules requiring MPs who have been in an alert level 3 area to isolate for five days before returning to Parliament.
Parliament's been in recess since late October, meaning Tuesday's the first time many of the Auckland MPs have been back in Wellington for an in-person caucus since the Delta outbreak began.
During that time a number of polls have shown National languishing in the low and mid-20s and Collins being outranked by ACT's David Seymour as preferred Prime Minister, sparking more talk about whether her time as leader may soon be up. However, a leadership vote was considered unlikely while many MPs were unable to travel to the capital. Some MPs are still yet to return.
When asked by reporters on Tuesday morning, Collins said her leadership wouldn't be a topic of conversation at the caucus meeting.
She was also questioned about comments made on Tuesday morning by Bridges, who led the party between 2018 and mid-2020 and is speculated to want another punt at it, despite his public denials.
According to the NZ Herald, Bridges was asked twice whether Collins would still be leader by the time 2022 rolled around. He is reported as refusing to give a definitive answer.
"Judith Collins is the leader of the National Party and I support her as leader," he said.
Collins told reporters: "I am sure that means he supports me as the leader of the National Party."
"It also means too, what I am hearing from people like Simon, is how upset they are that this Government has utterly failed in its vaccination plan until recently and that people are hurting in small businesses. I expect that that is what we will be talking about today."
She said MPs weren't having conversations about her leadership - despite Newshub hearing just that - and is confident she will be leader next year.
"I am the leader of the National Party and what I am doing is the right thing which is focusing on things that matter and I will continue to do that."
Bridges has consistently said he is not looking to stage a coup as recently as last Friday, when he said he may have a "credibility issue" as no one believed him.
MPs removed him as leader last May after the party's vote began to collapse ami the first COVID-19 lockdown. Todd Muller was inserted as top dog, but only lasted until July, leading to Collins swooping in.
In September, as rumours swirled about her leadership, Collins said she would never resign as leader.