Simon Bridges says he could work with Judith Collins again despite the former Opposition leader demoting him based on an allegation of serious misconduct.
Collins' actions were labelled as "deeply disrespectful" after she announced that Bridges had been demoted and stripped of his portfolio responsibilities in a bombshell statement on Wednesday night - without first briefing caucus.
Collins was later rolled as the leader of the National Party on Thursday after receiving a vote of no confidence from her caucus colleagues. Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti has temporarily taken the helm as the interim leader, with National to decide on Collins' full-time replacement at a vote on Tuesday. Newshub understands the candidates for the leadership include Christopher Luxon, Mark Mitchell and Bridges, who reiterated to The AM Show on Friday morning that he is "considering" vying for the top job.
Despite the bad blood between the two, Bridges said he would still work with Collins, who remains the National MP for Papakura, again in the future.
"Yeah I can [see myself working with her]," Bridges said.
When asked if he could see Collins in his Cabinet if a Bridges-led National were voted into power, he said that possibility was "a long way away".
"Let's be honest, we've got a lot of work to do with New Zealanders and the issues New Zealanders face before we get there."
However, Bridges did have some good words to say about Collins, praising the former leader for helping to rebuild the National Party during a difficult and uncertain time.
"It is clear we lost confidence in Judith Collins, a lot of that was to do with the press release. There's no secret, I've had many differences with Judith around what's happening," he said.
"I will say, she took over at a difficult time - this age of COVID is pretty complicated. She has helped rebuild the National Party."
In the statement released late on Wednesday, Collins said Bridges, also a former Opposition 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 an incident about five years ago. A group of National MPs including Bridges, Jami-Lee Ross and Todd McClay were together with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean. The allegation is something was said to her of a sexual nature that Dean found humiliating and designed to dominate. The complaint was taken to then-leader Bill English, who has refused to comment to Newshub.
It was widely speculated that Bridges had been planning to challenge Collins for the leadership, with the Tauranga MP not ruling it out to Newshub this week, simply saying it was "not my intention" to do so. Supporters of Bridges told Newshub Wednesday night's development was a set-up, and earlier on Thursday, Bridges accused Collins of trying to hold the role at any cost, describing his demotion as "truly desperate stuff".
Bridges said on Thursday he regrets the "inappropriate" remarks that upset his colleague, but he will still "consider" running for the leadership.