National MP Steven Joyce is leaving Parliament with a vote of confidence in Simon Bridges and a tacit warning to others not to wait and hope for a turn at the leadership.
Joyce's decision to resign from Parliament will see him follow Sir John Key and Bill English out the door, the top three power brokers of the former National Government.
It comes after his loss to Simon Bridges for the leadership role vacated by Bill English the week before.
Joyce denied a bruised ego after the leadership contest was behind his decision to go.
In what could be a message to others with leadership ambitions, he said he was not tempted to wait to see if he might get another chance at the leadership in case Bridges did not fare well.
"No. That would be the traditional response if you wanted to throw your toys would be to go to the backbench, grow a beard and wait."
He believed Bridges would take the party to the election.
"Nobody can say he will win but I think he's got a really good shot at it. So that wasn't a factor. The next step was thinking about my own future."
He also believed Bridges had confidence in him.
While Joyce said he would have lost the finance role under new leader Simon Bridges, he was offered his pick of other roles and a front bench position and was unsure if he would have stayed on even if he was offered finance.
"It is a fork in the road. You get to assess it. And my view is if I was going to go at any time in the next 2.5 years you're better to go now. If I'm not 100 per cent wanting to take up a role on the front bench for that period of time and beyond then I'm better to give somebody else a shot."
While Joyce's departure leaves National without its key campaign strategist and economic policy driver, Joyce said there were others who could do those roles.
"Everybody makes their contribution and I made mine, but nobody is indispensable. That's the reality of it. And the sort of things that I do, a number of people could do."
Joyce's announcement got mixed responses from his rivals.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson tweeted that he wished him well for the future: "It has been (mostly) fun sparring with you." Robertson and Joyce had sparred over Joyce's claims of an $11 billion hole in Labour's budget – something Joyce was not backing away from as he resigned.
NZ First leader Winston Peters said while Joyce had "certain serious qualities" he was also a "black ops" man.
"And I don't like that sort of politics."
Peters predicted it was the start of "political strife" and infighting for the National Party.
Although both English and Joyce would still be around if not for Peters' decision to go with Labour after the election, Joyce said he was not bitter.
"There's no point in that sort of emotion. Winston appointed the Government and we have to deal with it. That's MMP."
Joyce collected many nicknames in his nine and a bit years in Parliament – Mr Fix-It, Minister of Everything and Dildo Baggins.
Joyce and Bridges made much of Joyce's achievements as minister, including the rollout of ultra-fast broadband, the Roads of National Significance and his work for technology companies as Minister for Science and Technology. He was also left to try to wrestle the Novopay debacle into order, the chaos after the change to the teachers' payroll system.
Asked if it bothered him that he was more famous for being struck by a flying dildo at Waitangi than those achievements, Joyce laughed.
"I don't think I am, really. Definitely I think I am more famous for toy catching than toy throwing. But nah. I think, well hopefully the public are able to see the distinction between things that happen to you and things you do. I've been lucky enough to do a lot of things over the years and hopefully they see some good in that."
He had worked out his politics career was 16 years – about the same as his radio career.
"The whole thing has been an absolute blast and absolute privilege, to be blunt. Yep, you have good days and bad days and there's tough days but a day that you're serving your fellow New Zealanders and you're getting an opportunity to help them is actually a pretty cool thing. It is hard to walk away from it."
The next years will be in the commercial sector – he was not interested in government roles but was keen to get involved with technology companies and exporters in some way. He believed high-tech was important for the future of New Zealand.
He also expects to have more spare time for wife Suzanne and his children Tommy and Amelia as well as his vegetable garden.
Former leader Bill English credited Joyce with restructuring the party after its abysmal defeat under English's leadership in 2002, which some put down to a dysfunctional party organisation more than English.
Joyce went in as the party's general manager in 2003 and ran every campaign after that. He was behind Don Brash's close run in 2005 and all three campaigns under Sir John Key which saw National in government – and get more than 44 per cent of the vote.
He was also behind the 2017 campaign in which National again got more than 44 per cent but did not get into government after NZ First sided with Labour.
Sir John Key said Joyce was "National's rock."
"Always there, always reliable, always solid in his advice. He has that rare but incredible mix of being economically savvy, politically brilliant coupled with a prolific work rate."