New National Party leader Judith Collins has revealed why former leader Simon Bridges has been given such a top position in her new caucus - even though she voted against him in Todd Muller's leadership coup and he voted against her this week.
Bridges has been given the number four spot in Collins' caucus, with Muller at number eight.
Collins said Bridges - who voted for Mark Mitchell over Collins to replace Todd Muller as leader this week - deserved to be treated with respect.
"We all know Simon," Collins told Newstalk ZB today. "There are two reasons (for his new position); he's a hard worker and he is intelligent. These are two excellent qualities as we try to get back into Government.
"He's a former leader. I do not like to see former leaders not shown the respect that their caucus chose to give them when they elected them."
Bridges has already taken a dig at Muller, saying he "wasted" valuable time during his swift term as leader.
Bridges told Newstalk ZB last night he was disappointed with Muller's stint at the top and how the leadership coup played out.
Both former leaders are part of Judith Collins' new-look, shadow front-bench.
Bridges said the party's election preparation was hindered but believes the rise of Collins could propel the party forward to success.
"I was really disappointed [in how the leadership coup played out]. It would have been a privilege to lead National into this election. We wasted a bit of time. There's a bunch of complex reasons for that.
"We're making back that time. We're going to finish this election much more strongly than the position we were in two or three weeks ago."
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When asked today by Newstalk ZB's Mike Yardley about any lingering malcontents or unhappiness in the Nats, Collins said today she was not worried.
Everyone, she said, had been treated with respect and had received a call to talk through their roles.
"It's a good reshuffle. You've got to do what you have to do. I didn't see this coming. I wasn't planning and plotting. I just had to make decision and if there's one thing I know what to do, it's making decisions.
"I haven't got time for soul-gazing nonsense."
Fifty-six days ago, Collins said she voted for Muller as leader because she thought it was "the best course" for the party. "I have been very successful in voting for the right leader every time," said Collins at the time.
And it seems it cuts both ways, after this week's departure of Muller and the contest to replace him. Bridges told RNZ: "I'll make no secret of the fact that I voted for Mark Mitchell, Mark is someone I've got a high regard for who was there close to me when I was leader of the National Party," he said.
"But now we've got Judith and I think she's going to do a really good job."
On female representation and the departure of Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye, Collins said today National had six women in its top 20, the same as Labour.
Collins said she did not believe she needed the Covid recovery role that Adams wanted.
"I don't believe we needed the role. It was primarily a policy role that's pretty much completed in my view. We are now in full election mode."
She denied Adams was "a bit sniffy". "No she's not, she's not at all. She's just been absolutely honest. She stayed on to help Todd Muller... she stated very clearly I offered her a very good role. It's not what she stayed in Parliament for and so she's made her own decision."
She had "utter respect" for Adams.
Collins said possible candidates were already talking to the party president about standing in Auckland Central, to replace Kaye.
The reshuffle announce yesterday saw the elevation of Bridges - he has been handed the foreign affairs and justice portfolios.
When asked about tackling the new portfolios, Bridges said he felt he could make a difference given it was his area of expertise.
"I feel really good about it. When Judith Collins called me and offered me justice and foreign affairs I said yes. Justice is a returning home for me because it is my professional background."
Despite National losing two of its most senior party members, Bridges told Newstalk ZB the party was in a stronger position than previously.
He went as far as saying Collins would give Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a tough run and believed Kiwis would like what the new National leader brings.
"The reality is we are the underdog but we are stronger than we were four weeks ago.
"We're on the comeback trail. Even as the underdog we have a path to victory."
"Under Judith Collins you're not going to be left wanting to know what we think. There will be a contest and you will have a very clear choice at this election.
"I think we can [win]. It will be harder than perhaps it was. Prior to Covid we were in the mid 40s. Covid came along and people have rallied to the Government. We've had our issues. It's been a bruising time for National.
"We've got a new leader, people know her experience, they know her toughness, they know what she's about and we do still have a strong team.
"Literally as soon as tomorrow morning from Judith's announcement on infrastructure, you'll see us rolling things out. Whilst we are the underdog we've got a real chance of winning this election."
Asked whether National are in a better position now than when he was leader of the party, Bridges said the right person is currently in the job.
"I don't know. People can have their different views. We are where we are.
"Judith is our leader and she's going to do a really good job. Right here right now, for what we need, Judith is our person for the hour. New Zealanders won't be left wondering."