Simon Bridges' week from hell just got... a little worse.

The embattled National Party leader was speaking to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking, ostensibly to steady the ship and steer the debate back to economic issues, when he made an embarrassing on-air gaffe.

"The biggest issues we face in New Zealand right now are our economic future," Bridges said.

"But at the moment, there's a focus on leadership in the National Party".

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"And some of my colleagues want to challenge myself and Paula Benefit..."

He tried to quickly correct his error.

Leader for more than two years, with Paula Bennett his deputy for the entire time, Bridges might well be relying on Bennett as two unnamed MPs challenge for the leadership next Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Bridges has made the same mortifying mistake before.

Simon Bridges accidentally calls Paula Bennett, Paula Benefit.

In 2018, Bridges was talking to media following jibes from Winston Peters when he made the unfortunate insult.

"Winston Peters spends a huge amount of time on me, on Paula Ben, Benefit, Bennett," Bridges said.

"Let's start that again."

The nickname "Paula Benefit" was thrown around during her time as the Minister for Social Development, poking fun at her past as a solo parent who relied on the benefit.

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In 2017, Bennett said she found it "distasteful" that people were scraping through her past.

"I just find it kind of distasteful that people want to go back and look at someone's private life to nearly 30 years ago and start kind of dragging that up," she told media in 2017.

Simon Bridges can't seem to get his deputy's name right. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Simon Bridges can't seem to get his deputy's name right. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It's not the first time a politician has called Bennett "Paula Benefit", when in 2011 a Green MP accidentally made the gaffe during a candidate meeting.

Former Breakfast host Petra Bagust was also guilty of the error during a live segment in 2012.

After this morning's slip-up, Hosking poked fun at Bridges, saying "when it rains, it pours".

Speaking to National MP Mark Mitchell, Hosking added: "Why don't you just hand them the election now?".

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TWO CHALLENGERS

Simon Bridges this morning revealed two National MPs will challenge him for the party's leadership.

The National Party leader told Mike Hosking he would not identify the pair as he wanted to give them the "dignity" of making their own announcements.

He was "very confident" he would win a vote on Tuesday.

Asked if the challenge was "destabilising" he said the vast majority of National MPs "get it" and understood what was at play.

"I think actually, Tuesday latest we will have resolved this, we'll be able to get back to the things that matter in politics."