1 Feb 2018

English remains confident of leadership

8:49 am on 1 February 2018

National Party leader Bill English says he'd be very surprised if any of his MPs raised concerns about the leadership at the party's caucus retreat next week.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Mr English's state of the nation speech was overshadowed yesterday by reports that some of his MPs were agitating for a change in command.

Some National MPs have privately told RNZ there is discontent about the party's deputy Paula Bennett.

But Mr English dismissed that as "gossip" and insisted he and Mrs Bennett had their colleagues' full backing.

The party will head into a two-day caucus meeting in Tauranga next week. Mr English said he didn't expect any leadership talk to come up.

"If anything, a bit of a burst of speculation like this has probably hardened up support," he said.

"We'll be spending time on working out how to hold to account a government that's made a number of early mistakes [and] shows every sign of losing momentum pretty quickly."

Mrs Bennett also told reporters leadership was not set to be discussed at the caucus retreat. "No plans for that at all," she said.

Both MPs' comments came before a Newshub Reid Research poll released last night.

The poll showed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern rocketing up as preferred Prime Minister and Mr English slipping.

Ms Ardern soared to 38 percent, up eight points from the last poll and news of her pregnancy. Mr English dropped nine points to 26 percent.

On party vote though, the National Party still sat in the top spot though with 44.5 percent.

Labour trailed on 42.3 percent, its highest result in that poll in more than a decade.

Coalition partner New Zealand First was the major causality.

The party registered just 3.8 percent - well below the five percent threshold needed to get into Parliament.

Labour would still be able to form a government with the Green Party which stayed steady on 6 percent.

About 750 people were interviewed by phone and 250 online between 18 - 28 January.

The poll's margin of error is +/-3.1 percent.

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