Judith Collins speaks out after dramatic day that saw her lose National leadership role

Former National Party leader Judith Collins has spoken out after she was ousted in a crisis caucus meeting on Thursday.

It comes after a bombshell statement sent late on Wednesday where she announced MP Simon Bridges, the former leader, had been demoted and relieved of his portfolio responsibilities following an "allegation of serious misconduct" towards a caucus colleague a number of years ago.

The complaint relates to something that happened five years ago. A group of National MPs including Bridges, Jami-Lee Ross and Todd McClay were together with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean.

Bridges says the group were talking about how he has two sons but wanted a girl, so he "engaged in some old wives' tales" about how to have one.

His wording to Dean allegedly went along the lines of: 'Hey Jacqui, we've been talking about how to have a daughter, do you think I should do long slow strokes or short hard strokes'.

He says he now recognises what he said was "clearly inappropriate".

Bridges accused Collins of trying to hold onto the National Party leadership at any cost, describing her demotion of him on Wednesday as "truly desperate stuff".

Speaking to Newshub on Thursday evening, Collins says "it's a great relief" to no longer be the leader and she's "very, very pleased" with how the day went down.

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub.

The conversation is now turning to who will replace her, the decision of which will come at next Tuesday's caucus meeting. The main contenders include Mark Mitchell and Christopher Luxon, with Bridges still weighing it up.

Collins says "there will be a couple of candidates" that may have her support, but Bridges and Mitchell are already a resounding "no". Luxon "might" have her backing to be the new leader.

"I really like Christopher. He works really hard and he's highly intelligent," she says.

Luxon has long been rumoured to be a National Party leadership contender. Newshub understands former Prime Minister Sir John Key has been urging him to be strategic and bide his time until after the next election. 

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll suggested Luxon had a long road ahead not just to convince the public he's the man for the job, but for them to even know who he is.

Luxon is understood to be running for the leadership with Nicola Willis, National's housing spokesperson, as his deputy. 

Collins' deputy, Dr Shane Reti, will be the interim party leader until next week's meeting.