As it happened: Christopher Luxon officially elected National Party leader, Nicola Willis deputy

The National Party has a new leader.

Former Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon has been given the job after former leader Simon Bridges withdrew from the race on Tuesday afternoon. Nicola Willis has been elected deputy leader.

This article is no longer being updated. Watch Newshub Live at 6pm for full coverage of today's National Party leadership race.

4:55pm - Luxon also told reporters he saw his lack of political experience as an advantage - as it meant something completely fresh heading into the future.

4:49pm - That concludes Luxon's first press conference as National Party leader.

One point he made was he believed New Zealand was heading "the wrong way".

Luxon told reporters the Labour Government was good at PR but "woeful at delivering much else".

4:42pm - Higher productivity, wage growth and education will be a big focus for the party, Luxon says.

4:37pm - Simon Bridges will hold a key position in the National Party moving forward, Luxon confirms.

4:33pm - Luxon says he brings a history of leadership and "getting things done" to the role.

He says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a "great communicator" - but believes New Zealand needs more.

4:27pm - Luxon says there will be important roles for every MP in the Caucus - including former party leaders Judith Collins, Todd Muller and Simon bridges.

4:25pm - Luxon tells the press conference he plans to give everything to the role.

He says New Zealand deserves "nothing but the very best".

4:20pm - While we wait for the press conference to get underway, click here for more details about the new leadership team.

4:13pm - A press conference hosted by the new leadership is about to get underway. You can watch that live in the video above.

4:10pm - Arriving at Parliament earlier, Luxon said he was excited for the future.

 "It's a great day for the National Party - really wonderful day and it's a great new start.

"I'm looking forward to seeing my caucus colleagues."

4pm - It's worth noting that Bridges' withdrawal from the leadership race after speaking with Luxon could mean a large porfolio is heading Bridges' way. Watch this space.

3:55pm - Luxon and Willis will now front a press conference at 4:15pm. You can watch that live in the video above.

3:45pm - Nicola Willis becomes the 19th deputy leader of the National Party. Below is a list of those who preceded her:

  • Shane Reti (2020 - 2021)
  • Gerry Brownlee (2020)
  • Nikki Kaye (2020)
  • Paula Bennett (2016 - 2020)
  • Sir Bill English (2006 - 2016)
  • Brownlee (2003 - 2006)
  • Nick Smith (2003)
  • Roger Sowry (2001 - 2003)
  • Sir Bill (2001)
  • Wyatt Creech (1997 - 2001)
  • Don McKinnon (1987 - 1997)
  • George Gair (1986 - 1987)
  • Jim Bolger (1984 - 1986)
  • Jim McClay (1984)
  • Duncan MacIntyre (1981 - 1984)
  • Brian Talboys (1974 - 1981)
  • Robert Muldoon (1972 - 1974)
  • Jack Marshall (1957 - 1972)
  • Keith Holyoake (1946 - 1957)
  • William Polson (1940 - 1946).

3:32pm - The National Party has issued a press release confirming Christopher Luxon as the new leader and Nicola Willis as his deputy.

"It is a tremendous privilege to lead our great party, and I thank my colleagues for the confidence they have placed in me," Luxon says.

"I'm delighted the Caucus has elected Nicola Willis as deputy leader. She will do an incredible job and we will be a formidable team.

"The unified National Party that Nicola and I lead will work every day to represent all New Zealanders, earn back their trust and confidence, and deliver for them.

"Now, more than ever, New Zealand needs the National Party to offer them hope, ambition and drive to meet the challenges of the coming decade.

"We believe New Zealanders need a Government of action - not rhetoric.

"I came to politics because I know how to solve problems and get things done.

"We are the new National Party that New Zealand needs."

3:27pm - Newshub has been told the National Party will hold a press conference at 4:30pm. You'll be able to watch that live in the video above.

3:10pm - Chris Bishop, another National Party MP, arrived at the Beehive a short time ago - saying he's looking forward to a fresh start.

"He's going to make a great leader of the National Party," Bishop said of Luxon. "He's going to make a great Prime Minister. I can't wait to serve in his team.

"It's an exciting day for New Zealand; big reset moment for the National Party."

3:02pm - National Party MP Todd McClay believes Luxon has enough experience to lead the party.

"He's done a great job before he came to Parliament and he's been exceptional since he's been there, and he's a great guy, so he has the full support of caucus," McClay said.

3pm - National MP Mark Mitchell, earlier touted as a potential leadership candidate, says he's throwing his support behind Luxon. "An exciting new start for us as a party," he says.

2:50pm - National Party MP Paul Goldsmith on Luxon as leader: "He's going to be great!"

2:50pm - Simon Bridges has told media he had a "good chat" with Christopher Luxon earlier.

"I'm excited about Christopher Luxon," Bridges said.

"I see his heart, his values, and I think he’s going to be a great leader of the National Party and ultimately, a strong Prime Minister. 

"He's got a really clear sense of what he's about and what he wants to do for New Zealand and that excites me."

2:30pm - Christopher Luxon will be the 16th leader of the National Party. Below is a list of those who preceded him:

  • Judith Collins (2020-2021)
  • Todd Muller (May - July 2020)
  • Simon Bridges (2018 - 2020)
  • Sir Bill English (2016 - 2018)
  • Sir John Key (2006 - 2016)
  • Don Brash (2003 - 2006)
  • Sir Bill (2001 - 2003)
  • Jenny Shipley (1997 - 2001)
  • Jim Bolger (1986 - 1997)
  • Jim McClay (1984 - 1986)
  • Robert Muldoon (1974 - 1984)
  • Jack Marshall (1972 - 1974)
  • Keith Holyoake (1957 - 1972)
  • Sidney Holand (1940 - 1957)
  • Adam Hamilton (1936 - 1940).

2:15pm - So what do we know about Christopher Luxon?

Newshub digital political reporter Zane Small profiled all the potential National Party leadership candidates last week, including Luxon. Read more here.

2:05pm - National Party MPs on their way into Parliament earlier said picking a new leader was all about unity.

Based on Bridges' decision to step aside and back Luxon, unity might be what National finally gets - due to the leadership now not having to go to a vote. Earlier, political commentator Ben Thomas said avoiding a vote would be best for the party.

"The best thing for the party is if Bridges and Luxon can work out an accommodation between themselves," Thomas told Newshub.

1:59pm - It's worth noting Christopher Luxon has the full support of Simon Bridges and the former leader will be backing his new leader.

"He will make a brilliant National leader and Prime Minister," Bridges said.

1:57pm - A National Party spokesperson has told Newshub it will still meet at 3pm to formalise the new leader but the meeting will be shorter than expected.

1:51pm - In breaking news, Simon Bridges has withdrawn from the leadership race - paving the way for Christopher Luxon.

1:45pm - National Party MP Ian McKelvie told Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch he doesn't see Judith Collins as a threat as the party looks to rebuild.

"Absolutely not," McKelvie said, when asked if he thought Collins would cause trouble.

1:30pm - Earlier, ousted National Party leader Judith Collins arrived in Wellington ahead of the meeting to decide her replacement.

After last week's leadership chaos, Collins told reporters at Wellington Airport she was looking forward to a "good day" with the party but wouldn't be drawn on anything else.

1:10pm - The location of the post-caucus announcement is still being decided. A National Party spokesperson said "we have a situation where one potential leader” wants the old Legislative Council Chamber and another one wants the Beehive Banquet Hall. Both have been booked.

1pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked about the National Party contest during a standup in Hamilton.

"I’ve been up against four different leaders of the National Party," she said. "But regardless of the change in leadership of the Opposition, my focus remains the same: navigating New Zealand through this incredibly tough period of a pandemic and the economic impacts of it. "

"My message to whoever takes on the mantle is to remember how important it is to focus on the things that New Zealand wants us to focus on."

12:50pm - Harete Hipango told reporters it's "time for cleanout".

"Reset, refresh and we will find out".

She wouldn't elaborate on what "cleanout" meant.

"I would like to see the best people. It is not just about the leader. It's about the leader, it's about the deputy, it's about the caucus as a whole."

Hipango would like the leader to be the person who is best for both the National Party and Aotearoa New Zealand.

12:35pm - Joseph Mooney said regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, National needs to unify to "take the fight to Labour and to articulate a vision for New Zealand". He said the party needs to appeal to all Kiwis.

"I am really confident we are going to unite together," Mooney said.

He said the last week had been "challenging".

12:15pm - National MP Penny Simmonds wouldn't comment on the leadership race. She noted that it was raining and the reporters may be getting wet. She didn't want to accidentally poke anyone in the eye with her umbrella.

Penny Simmonds.
Penny Simmonds. Photo credit: Newshub.

12pm - Speaking to Newshub Live at 11:30am earlier, Newshub Political Editor Tova O'Brien said the race between Bridges and Luxon is too tough to call at the moment.

"Last night MPs were telling us that it was too close to call. But that Christopher Luxon has a slight edge and that throws up a couple of potential scenarios.

"Either Christopher Luxon takes it out with a small majority, or perhaps he withdraws from the race entirely, because he knows that to be part of a failed leadership bid would squander political capital and a political career that he sees as long and ambitious."

O'Brien said anything less than a united caucus and unanimous support behind a single leader could cause further agitation and possibly another coup.

"The caucus needs to unite behind the next leader."

11:55am - Speaking to reporters, Ian McKelvie said the party had one job on Tuesday: "That is to come out of caucus with a united front that can run the country in the future".

He wasn't worried Judith Collins would sit on the backbench and leak.

"Absolutely not," McKelvie said.

11:40am - Judith Collins has arrived in Wellington. She refused to answer questions from Newshub. She asked a reporter to "get out of my way, please".

"I am really looking forward to a good day today for the National Party," Collins said.

Watch that footage above.

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:30am - A number of Auckland MPs have just got off a flight into Wellington.

Chris Penk said he will support the next leader of the National Party regardless of who he votes for, but "I'm confident we will get a good result".

He said the caucus will make a good decision for the leader and support that person going forward. Penk has had conversations with MPs, members and the public.

Simeon Brown said leadership was a matter for caucus.

"I'm keeping my judgement fully to the caucus room," Brown said.

Andrew Bayly wouldn't comment

Simeon Brown.
Simeon Brown. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:05am - Nicola Willis, who has been spoken about as potentially being Christopher Luxon's preferred deputy, said she would not be commenting.

"Out of my respect for my colleagues... I won't be making any comment." 

When asked if she was looking for the deputy role, Willis said: "Today is going to be a good day for National."

Her message for the next leader?

"Unite this team. We are going to be great. Let's beat Jacinda Ardern."

Nicola Willis.
Nicola Willis. Photo credit: Newshub.

10:55am - Stuart Smith said he would make his decision on who to vote for in caucus and "you may never find out" the outcome. He had received "a few calls from a few people", including both Bridges and Luxon.

He isn't concerned Luxon may be inexperienced and when asked about Bridges' baggage, he said everyone had baggage. 

Smith said Luxon was very good with people management.

"We are very fortunate to have two strong candidates," Smith said.

Gender was irrelevant to who should be deputy, he said, but Smith expects it will be a woman.

He said Judith Collins was a "valuable member of the National Party" and will remain so. It would be an "extreme move" to kick her out of caucus.

10:50am - Right-leaning political commentator Trish Sherson is urging the National Party to move on from the past as it prepares to pick a new leader.

Ex-leader Simon Bridges and newcomer Christopher Luxon will face off for the leadership on Tuesday after a tumultuous few days for the party last week that saw Judith Collins' tenure as the leader come to an end. 

Sherson, a former ACT party staffer, says National needs to find a way to raise its appeal.

"I think they have to stop believing that Luxon or any new leader is the second-coming of John Key," she told The AM Show. "Luxon might be close to Key but he's not Key and the party really needs to move on from that."

Read more here.

10:35am - Coromandel National MP Scott Simpson arrived on Parliament's forecourt to receive a petition opposing the Three Waters policy from several constituents. He wouldn't speak about "caucus matters", but said it was important for the party to unite behind a single leader.

Scott Simpson (left) listening to a speaker talking about the Three Waters petition.
Scott Simpson (left) listening to a speaker talking about the Three Waters petition. Photo credit: Newshub.

10:25am - Here's the view outside of the National Party caucus office. Gone is the Judith Collins leader picture that was outside last week.

As it happened: Christopher Luxon officially elected National Party leader, Nicola Willis deputy
Photo credit: Newshub.

10:20am - National MP Maureen Pugh says she will reserve her decision until caucus, but is "not worried about anything". 

What's her message to the next National Party leader?

"Stick with the National Party principles, it will all be fine."

10:10am - Louise Upston has told reporters that she won't be speaking about the "leadership contest" ahead of the caucus meeting.

"I think it is pretty obvious why we need to have a united team. We have incredible talent in our caucus. I know that there is some great opportunities for us to focus on the things that matter to New Zealanders."

9:40am - If you're wondering why MPs are turning up slowly, it's because National isn't meeting for their caucus meeting until the afternoon.

Normally, when Parliament is sitting, caucus is held in the morning so MPs need to arrive early. But as Parliament isn't sitting, there isn't such a rush to arrive. 

9:30am - Speaking to reporters, National MP Barbara Kuriger said there was only a few hours to go before the public would "know all the answers".

She wouldn't say who she would be supporting. 

"I am worried about what happened last week. That wasn't where we needed to be. I am sure this afternoon that we will come out with a decision that works us into a good place, whoever wins."

Kuriger was asked if she was concerned Judith Collins may leak from the backbench.

"I hope everyone uses this as an opportunity to pick up their game."

"It will be a genuine contest," Kuriger said of Tuesday's meeting.

She said the party had had a "terrible" year and a half but was confident National could win in 2023 "with anyone we choose today".

9am - Rotorua National MP Todd McClay told reporters that the party's members want caucus to be united.

"I think it is a great day to select a new leader for the National Party and caucus is pretty focused on that," he said. 

Asked if he was worried about Luxon's inexperience, McClay said he was "not worried about anything".  

"The National Party will make the right decision today. Caucus is really focused. We know the important job is focusing on what the Government is doing and it's a good day to select a leader."

Todd McClay arrives at Parliament.
Todd McClay arrives at Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub.

8:50am - National MP Tim Van de Molen wouldn't say who he will be voting for when questioned by reporters on Tuesday morning, just noting that caucus has "a lot to offer". It was important to have a united team, the MP said. 

"We are down here to get the new leader of the National party and we will be discussing what that looks like in caucus," he said.

"They are both top quality gents doing a fantastic job and I am looking forward to having a resolution to this."

David Bennett was also tight-lipped, not answering questions from Newshub.

8:35am - In its Free Press newsletter on Monday night, the ACT Party had some advice for National.

"In short, stand for something. Without an outside purpose, teams tend to turn their guns inside. That’s when the trouble starts," it says.

"ACT’s MPs all have the mission statement ‘ensure New Zealand has the best public policy in the world’ at their desk. It is good advice for anyone in politics because policy is what affects people and democracy is about people."

ACT says there is no shortage of issues to take a stand on, calling the party's deal "with the red devil on housing" an obvious one. 

"Then there’s Todd Muller and James Shaw’s deal on the Zero Carbon Act. The current Government’s injection of race into every area of policy needs an answer. The National Party’s policy to make taxes even more progressive belongs with the hard left."

While ACT says National could make its position clear on these issues, the problem is "there's a party that's already taken them called ACT".

8:10am - Simon Bridges has spoken to Newshub's Amelia Wade after arriving in Wellington ahead of the National Party caucus meeting.

Asked if he was going to be National's next leader, Bridges said: "I think it is going to be a good day, a really good day for the National Party". 

"We are going to be able to draw a line on what has gone on in the past, get united, and really take it to the Government, focus on what matters to New Zealanders and win the next election."

He didn't respond to Wade's other questions about what made him better than Christopher Luxon or if he would be Luxon's finance spokesperson. Instead, he just chuckled. 

Simon Bridges arrives in Wellington.
Simon Bridges arrives in Wellington. Photo credit: Newshub.

7:50am - One of the big questions facing National MPs on Tuesday is whether it's Luxon's time to become leader. As political commentator and former National government press secretary Ben Thomas told Newshub, Luxon has long been seen as a future leader, but only a year into his political career, it could be too soon. 

"Christopher Luxon certainly wants to be National Party leader. He's made no secret of that. But his planning, when it looked like National was dead and buried for the 2023 election, was probably to seek the leadership after that.

"Simon Bridges can say to caucus, I should have been given the chance to run in 2020, and he's probably right. Hindsight certainly shows that the Todd Muller and the Judith Collins experiments didn't significantly improve National's position.

"They both certainly want the leadership. I think Simon Bridges might be keener to get it earlier. But that will be, you know, a decision that Luxon makes, hopefully in conjunction, having talked to Simon Bridges."

Newshub has heard Collins' loyalists are supporting Luxon, moving him ahead of Bridges. Thomas warned this may place Luxon in a tricky position.

"I think it would be a significant strategic mistake for either contender to be elected by a vote and it would be disastrous if they were only elected because of the support of Judith Collins and her faction."

7:30am - Speaking to The AM Show, former National minister Jonathan Coleman says the fresh look direction of Christopher Luxon is an "attractive option". The public wants someone who can move on from the previous few years of infighting, he says.

Right-leaning political commentator Trish Sherson says MPs need to try and avoid a vote, and also to stop believing Luxon is the "second-coming of John Key". She expects Luxon to take the top job, Nicola Willis to be deputy, Bridges to be the finance spokesperson and Chris Bishop to take the number four spot.

Coleman believes Sherson's suggestion would be a good move. MPs need to think about the demographics the leadership team would appeal to. You can't have both Bridges and Luxon in the top two spots as they are both conservatives, Coleman says.

It's guess work to predict if there will be a poll bump after the new leader comes in, Sherson says. The new leader will only have a couple weeks to get bedded in before the summer break. That could be tricky to navigate as Kiwis are starting to get frustrated with hearing from politicians and want to have a break.

7:10am - Political commentator Ben Thomas told Newshub that Tuesday's decision will come down to whether caucus believes Luxon, who has only been in Parliament for a year, is ready to be leader. Luxon will have also asked himself that question, Thomas said.

"It's been described as the worst job in politics and a lot of opposition leaders have kind of struggled with it step up from being a competent spokesperson or MP to that sort of 24/7 gushing fire hose of questions and scrutiny that you get as the Leader of the Opposition," he said.

So is it a better bet to let Bridges, who has already previously led the party, have another shot?

"The conservative, perhaps even sensible, choice is to go for Bridges, in that you know that he can do that job as Leader of the Opposition. He can run a caucus, he can run an office, he can keep on message. All things that Judith Collins really struggled with. 

"The question mark will be over whether it's worth rolling the dice with Christopher Luxon, who everyone sort of agrees has a big future in the National Party and in politics, but whether one year he's ready for that position."

Both MPs will want to avoid a vote and a "bitter contest" by coming to a deal, Thomas said.

7am - In case you missed it on Monday, Newshub has been told Luxon may be ahead by a small margin, with Collins' loyalists putting their support behind him.

Newshub Political Editor Tova O'Brien caught up with National MP Maureen Pugh on Monday. See what she had to say here.

6:45am - Peter Dunne, who worked with the previous National Government as leader of United Future, told Newshub it would be better for the party if a deal was done prior to Tuesday's caucus meeting.

"The big challenge for the National Party, whoever is elected, is how you unite what's been a pretty fractious and sort of a rabble of a caucus over the last couple of years and if you end up on a very close vote, it's going to make that job of whoever the new leader is that much more difficult," he said.

"That's why I'm surprised they haven't been able to get together and do a deal that presents effectively a fait accompli to the caucus."

Dunne said it looked like Luxon did have more support than Bridges, "but the margin, I think, will be a bit too close for comfort".

The former MP said Luxon was inexperienced, but on the other hand, Bridges had baggage. He said that made the decision even more difficult. 

A good leader of the National Party was "someone who actually can listen to both the team around them but also the wider community".

"Someone who's got a non-dogmatic vision of what New Zealand should be like, so is prepared to adapt to change the current system, who is prepared to say, well, this isn't in the overall best interest of the country, rather than just following an ideological line."

He wasn't sure which candidate best fit that description.

Dunne said the party needs to keep its internal views or divisions private ahead of the 2023 election with all MPs singing from the same song sheet.

6:30am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live updates of what is a major day for the National Party.

After dumping Judith Collins as leader last week in a no-confidence vote following her decision to demote potential rival Simon Bridges, National will decide on Tuesday who will take its top job.

While Christopher Luxon hasn't publicly announced his candidacy, it's understood he is ahead in winning over the majority of the caucus. Collins and her small group of supporters are said to be behind him. Bridges has been open about wanting the top job.

The caucus will meet on Tuesday afternoon. It's possible a deal could be struck beforehand, avoiding a vote.