31 Jan 2018

Leadership rumblings in National Party

12:06 pm on 31 January 2018

National MPs are understood to be agitating about a potential change in the party's leadership.

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It is understood there are no specific moves against Bill English as leader. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

As the Opposition seeks to regroup in the wake of the election loss questions are being raised about deputy leader Paula Bennett.

Some of the discussion is around the way the leadership team handled the coalition negotiations which resulted in New Zealand First and Labour forming a government.

It is understood there are no specific moves against Bill English as leader, but there are pockets of discontent about Ms Bennett.

RNZ political editor Jane Patterson said there was no suggestion Mr English would be toppled though MPs were understood be considering what would happen if he decided to stand aside.

There may potentially be a more direct push against Paula Bennett though there was nothing specific at the moment, she said. While it was too early to say who might make a push for the job, MPs like Simon Bridges, who ran against Ms Bennett for the role last year, may surface. The party would be focused on whether it had the best leadership team to counter Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In a statement, Mr English said he was focused on leading National back into government. "I happen to be giving a speech today outlining how we are going to do that, including the party's focus for the year ahead and how we will hold this government to account," the statement said.

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National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

National MPs spoken to by RNZ at Parliament this morning downplayed leadership questions.

MP Anne Tolley was firmly behind the current leadership team.

"We're very happy with Bill English and Paula Bennett as our leader - it's scurrilous gossip."

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