National's caucus has elected Shane Reti as its deputy leader and has chosen to keep Judith Collins on as leader – the pair were elected unopposed this morning.
Reti was the odds-on favourite to receive the nod from his caucus and there was no serious speculation that Collins would not retain her leadership.
Speaking to media after an almost two-hour-long caucus meeting this morning, Reti likened his leadership style to former National deputy leader – and Prime Minister – Bill English.
"I'm more akin to say less and do more – I'm an engine room behind the leader. I'm an engine room beside all of my colleagues, that's how I conduct myself."
English served as National's deputy leader twice: Once to Jenny Shipley – who he rolled to become leader himself – and once to John Key, who anointed him to be his successor after he stood down.
Asked which iteration of English's tenure as deputy Reti was striving for, Collins quickly answered for him: "I think we're working on the latter".
Reti takes over from Gerry Brownlee who announced last week he would not be seeking re-election at the caucus meeting this morning.
Reti – who lost his Whangārei electorate after the special votes were counted – said he decided on running for the leadership several weeks ago when he was approached by a number of his colleagues.
He said he was "very proud" to have the support of the caucus, and of National's leader.
"Caucus has seen me as a safe pair of hands, a trusted pair of hands and a hard-working pair of hands."
He said he was proud of his Māori heritage.
Reti said he and Collins are friends and work together well – "she's my dream leader", he said.
Collins said she was not worried about a leadership challenge from Reti.
"I'm sure at some stage, Dr Shane would be an excellent leader of the National Party," she said.
She added that the fact they were both elected unopposed was "a great start".
"We have gone through a gruelling and difficult campaign and Dr Shane was with me for much of that."
With the dramatic reduction in the size of National caucus – going from 55 MPs last term to just 33 after the election – Collins now has to do a reshuffle of portfolios.
That won't be announced today; Collins said it's more likely to be unveiled tomorrow afternoon.
But she said it would be "surprising".
The Herald understands the finance role will be split up into two parts and be given to Simon Bridges and Andrew Bayly.
Collins wouldn't confirm this – in fact, the only position she would confirm was Reti keeping the health portfolio.
She said Reti did an excellent job when he was handed the health portfolio - "I'm really pleased he got this job - we're really lucky to have people like Dr Shane".
Asked about the name that Collins gives him - Dr Shane - he said he has "been called a lot worse".
Who is Shane Reti?
Reti – or Dr Shane as Collins referred to him during the campaign – shares a rather bleak commonality with Brownlee: they both lost usually safe National seats this election.
On election night, it looked as if Reti had just scraped in, in Whangarei, with the preliminary results showing a margin of 164 votes.
But after the specials were counted, Reti had lost by 431 – one of the closest margins this election - to Labour's Emily Henderson.
This is a far cry from the 13,169 margin he won when he first entered Parliament in 2014.
Brownlee lost the Ilam seat which he had held since the seat was created in 1996.
Reti, 57, had more or less kept his head down between then and earlier this year and didn't' have much of a national profile until Covid-19 hit New Zealand's shores.
Even then, he took a back seat to National's then health spokesman Michael Woodhouse before being promoted in Collins first reshuffle.
After that, he was one of National's main players.
He went from number 31 on Simon Bridges' list, to 17 under Todd Muller's leadership, soon after being bumped up to 13 in another Muller reshuffle, before being catapulted to number 5 under Collins.
Reti used his medical background to take the Government to task over its Covid-19 performance and to challenge Health Minister Chris Hipkins over the decisions he made.
His approach in the House was more clinical than political.
Speaking to the Herald a few months ago, he said his role was the two Cs: "To critique and to collaborate".
Having studied at Auckland medical school, Reti practised medicine in Whangārei for 16 years and served for three terms on the Northland District Health Board.
He then worked in the United States for seven years, becoming a Harkness Fellow at the Harvard Medical School and worked in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, a teaching hospital for Harvard.
In his maiden speech, he said he had been born into a state house, the eldest of five children in a working-class Māori family whose father had left school at 14 and mother had left school at 15.
He described an important event in his childhood that he said had shaped his attitude to life, including an example of institutional racism.
"In my student years I would usually study during the day and at night commercial clean with dad, vacuuming floors, cleaning toilets, and dusting blinds," he said.
"One year I asked the administrator whether I could sit not five subjects but six subjects, like all my friends were. I remember the reply: 'No, Shane. You're a Māori boy. You'll do five.'"
He said his internal response was a call to arms – "Right. I will show you."
His external response was to win the English prize that year.
"No, not for me six subjects. I was still allowed to sit only five. But many years later, when I was promoted to assistant professor at Harvard, I think I made my point," he told MPs at the time.
"I won, but many Māori do not. The educational aspirations of Māori must never ever be bound by the preconceptions of others."