When Todd Muller walked into Parliament's Legislative Council Chamber on Friday to deliver his first address as the 13th leader of the National Party, it ended a week of leaks, number-crunching, secret meetings, claims of betrayal and failed brinkmanship.
The Herald on Sunday talked to those involved in that showdown between Muller and the man he felled, Simon Bridges, to piece together how that week panned out.
It was clear until the end that it was going to be a close battle, and that neither side was absolutely certain they had the numbers when they went into that contest.
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The Herald on Sunday has since been told by a reliable source that Muller won the leadership by just one vote, although that may never be known for certain.
Simon Bridges had announced the challenge before it arrived.
Bridges went on to his usual broadcast media shows on Wednesday morning, and said he was facing a leadership challenge, but he would leave it up to his challengers to reveal themselves.
At that point, the challenge had not been made: but it was inevitable.
It had been some time coming.
The public reaction to some of Bridges' statements about the Government's response to the Covid-19 crisis was the real trigger: in particular a Facebook post Bridges put up which got a visceral response.
At that point, Muller's ambitions were widely known, but it was also known that Muller's preference was to wait until after the election before he had a tilt.
The trouble was that nobody else wanted to wait.
Other MPs were reporting that they were getting it in the ear from their local party members. The leader was also raised frequently by members of the public they were speaking to.
Then, critically, National Party Board members went to some MPs to flag their concerns and ask for something to be done.
MPs had not seen any of the National Party's internal polls since February – but the board had.
Those MPs could no longer simply sit and wait and hope.
At that point, there were three names in the mix for leadership.
One was Mark Mitchell, who had stood for the job in 2018 but withdrew at the request of Paula Bennett to back Bridges instead. The other was Judith Collins, who had also stood for the role before.
Neither of those ended up entering the fray, although Mitchell would have had Bridges taken a different path.
The third was Todd Muller, who had opted against contesting in 2018. Muller was aware the first Leader of the Opposition after a time in Government rarely lasted long.
He figured that his time would eventually come. It came a bit earlier than he hoped.
After the public antipathy to Bridges grew during the Covid-19 period, Muller, his potential deputy Nikki Kaye, Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis started "testing the water" to see if there was an appetite for change.
MPs' views were split on whether a change would do more harm than good, due to the inevitable instability and the proximity of an election.
News of their phone calls and meetings quickly made it to MPs loyal to Bridges, including Paula Bennett.
The media also heard about it, the leaks an apparent bid to try to force Bridges to stand down – or at least create momentum around a change.
A couple of weeks passed as Bridges tried to salvage things.
MPs had not seen any internal polls since February, when the Covid-19 crisis started to hit New Zealand – but some had heard that they were atrocious
A Newshub Reid Research Poll confirmed it. That poll played on Monday night and had National at just 30.6 per cent.
TUESDAY: Poll shell shock, a no-confidence motion
MPs were reeling from the poll of the night before. Its results would have meant 17 MPs cast out of Parliament.
MPs in marginal seats were very nervous as were List MPs.
Again, there were leaks to the media – this time that a no-confidence vote would be put up at the party's next caucus meeting a week later.
That was first reported by the NZ Herald on Tuesday afternoon. It was soon verified and reported by others.
At this point Muller wanted a clean handover, knowing the same party supporters who did not like Bridges would also not like a brutal leadership challenge.
At this point, Muller's team were not certain they had the numbers.
They did not want to challenge unless they had at least a cushion of four MPs against Bridges.
However, it usually requires a challenger rather than a vote of no-confidence to replace a leader in National.
Plan A was to hope Bridges stood down of his own accord and the leadership would come up for grabs. That would have sparked a contest with Mitchell, and possibly Collins. Muller's team was confident they would win in that scenario.
However, at no point did Muller go to Bridges directly to ask for that, although it is understood Kaye had some discussions with Bridges and Bennett.
The no-confidence vote plan did not work as intended.
The next day, Plan B had to be deployed: the direct challenge.
The fireworks began early when Simon Bridges announced he was facing a challenge for his leadership on morning media: effectively forcing Muller's hand.
Muller was in Auckland at the time.
His team debated how to respond.
The options included doing nothing and letting Bridges sweat it out until Tuesday, or making a public statement confirming the challenge.
They decided letting it drag out for another week was a bad idea. They needed a vote earlier – and the only way to get it would be to challenge.
Muller rang party president Peter Goodfellow and party whip Barbara Kuriger, telling them he would challenge. Muller made at least two attempts to call Bridges but did not get an answer. Bridges did not return the call.
Muller was now also meeting other MPs. One of them was Mark Mitchell, who was considered most likely to try to contest for the job.
Muller had arranged to meet Mitchell at the Cordis Hotel at 4pm – texting him an hour earlier with the venue.
When Mitchell drove up, he discovered the media had got there first and drove straight off again.
It remains unclear who alerted the media – both sides blame the other – but the meeting ended up taking place at the Hilton Hotel.
Meanwhile, Muller's team prepared the email to send to the other MPs, and it was sent out at around 5pm – straight after the emergency caucus meeting was called.
Muller never publicly announced his leadership bid, opting to treat it as an internal caucus matter.
Of course, all of his team knew full well that other MPs would inevitably leak that email to media.
On Wednesday night Mitchell committed his support to Bridges, giving away the opportunity to challenge himself.
THURSDAY: The race for 28 votes
Muller flew to Wellington in the morning but disappeared into thin air after being seen by media at the airport.
Unbeknownst to media, he had not gone very far at all: he had taken a room at the airport hotel to work with his team.
From that room, they found great entertainment in looking down and watching the media chasing other MPs – including Kaye who flew down to join them that afternoon.
Muller's core "campaign" team consisted of Kaye, and MPs Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis.
Commentator Matthew Hooton was an old friend and on Wednesday, Muller also brought him. There was some initial scepticism from Bishop and Willis who did not know Hooton very well.
Hooton had been known to criticise National and many of its MPs were cautious about him. Muller convinced them he would be of value.
While Bridges was at Parliament slotting in phone calls to MPs in between chairing the Epidemic Response Committee and speaking to the Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Team Muller bunkered down to work.
It was a sophisticated operation. Bishop and Willis were the "numbers" people. They had been softly gauging support for three weeks, but now hit turbo mode.
Bishop ran the logistics. There were spreadsheets and "call-trees" logging who they had called, who was strong support, and how they could get others over the line.
They were also getting ready to hit the ground running if Muller won. Speeches and press statements were prepared, and Muller himself was given some media training.
Willis was particularly valuable in that regard: she had been a speech writer for former PM Sir John Key, and had also worked on the campaigns of Key and Bill English, preparing them for debates and major speeches.
Meanwhile, influential supporters outside Parliament were being deployed.
MPs themselves find it difficult to openly lobby for their favoured candidate, due to the conventions of "caucus process".
But supporters outside Parliament have no such constraints.
Muller's supporters included Hooton and Michelle Boag, both of whom deployed themselves into the media as commentators to spread the good word.
Hooton in particular was relentless. Both are influential commentators – Hooton has regular platforms on RNZ and the NZ Herald.
He used those platforms to push Muller's chances. At no stage did he disclose in the media that he was himself deeply involved in the Muller campaign, although he did state he was a friend of Muller's.
There has since been speculation Hooton will end up as a chief of staff, or working in some other capacity for Muller. Hooton has ruled out the chief of staff job.
Bridges, meanwhile, had no similar external backers.
Bennett and he did many of the phone calls, helped by Bridges' old numbers man Todd McClay and Michael Woodhouse.
Mark Mitchell committed his support to Bridges on the Wednesday night, and started helping out a bit after that point.
Few MPs would say publicly how they were voting. They included Judith Collins, although Bridges' team now believe she supported Muller, despite previous disagreements with him over the Zero Carbon Bill.
There were also the inevitable accusations of double-crossing. Bridges' supporters said Whangarei MP Shane Reti had told Bridges he would support him – but had then voted for Muller.
Reti was mentioned by Muller's team as one of their key supporters - and both entered Parliament in 2014.
Asked about this, Reti denied making false promises of support and said he was possibly misinterpreted.
That night the 1 News Colmar Brunton poll ran. National was on 29 per cent.
It was a bright, crisp day in Wellington but the MPs were grumpy.
They did not like being called back to Wellington from the first free week after having been in lockdown and then at Parliament for almost two months.
They did not like the "distraction" the leadership had created. But they liked the polls' results even less.
They trickled in from about 7am, through the media scrums. Very few openly stated who they supported.
At noon, the door to the caucus room closed and a National Party banner was placed across the corridor to block the cameras.
At about 12.40pm, a report seeped out to Newshub that Muller had won. It was well before the caucus meeting wrapped up.
Caucus is tight and MPs are not allowed to take cellphones in.
It remains unknown how that leak made it out - whether a staff member got the word out or an MP used another device such as an Apple watch.
Just as leaks helped trigger Muller's ascendancy to the job, a leak confirmed it.