Bill English's announcement to leave the National leadership as suddenly as he did has done the party few favours.

Most thought he would go, but most thought that would come much later in the year, if not the term.

The resignation two weeks ago caught contenders off guard – everyone except Steven Joyce.

And in many ways, this contest has been about the survival of Steven Joyce.

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Joyce got notice of English's resignation at least a week ahead of the other contenders and that gave him a week the think about how he should run his bid.

When English delivered his news to the caucus, he implored MPs to keep their choices to themselves, unlike the last time around.

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That secrecy undoubtedly helped Joyce, who was able to move under cover of darkness for a week.

If he had worked in the sunlight, with MPs declaring their preferences early, Joyce's scant support initially – himself and Nathan Guy's - would have crippled him before he had even begun.

The focus on Judith Collins, Simon Bridges and Amy Adams as the only candidates in the first week allowed Joyce to drum up a little more encouragement before publicly announcing a decision he almost certainly made some time ago.

That allowed the narrative of the past week to be about him, his role in the past, and what the party would risk in losing him.

There was no chance Joyce would become leader. He has been campaigning for relevancy and using his finest dark arts to do so. In that respect he has run an exceptional campaign.

But the best campaign has been run by Judith Collins. Again there was not a chance she would become leader because it is her colleagues in the caucus voting, not her friends in the media.

But she is seriously being considered as deputy or finance. She has shown why she can never be ignored and ends the contest with more respect than when she started.

Claire Trevett's one-on-one interview with Judith Collins in her office today. / Mark Mitchell