National's ousted leader Simon Bridges gave an emotional speech this afternoon, saying he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

Caucus today went with the unknown candidate of Todd Muller over incumbent Bridges and Auckland MP Nikki Kaye has been elected his deputy, replacing Paula Bennett.

Bridges thanked his staff and said they were "loyal to the end".

He thanked Bennett too.


"It's been a heck of a ride."

He said it's been a roller coaster, where the highs were highs, and the lows were lows.

He acknowledged a few issues National had while he was in charge, such as Jami-Lee Ross, but did not mention him by name.

On the highs, he cited the capital gains backdown and Covid-19 border quarantines.

He said it was "my privilege" to lead National and that it had been a blast.

He said his leadership has taken a toll on his family and he said he was looking forward to spending more time being a "better dad", and a "better husband".

Bridges was emotional when talking about his children. He said he had not been the best dad during the past two or so years.

He would not go into detail about his future plans. "I'm taking stock," he said a number of times.


He said New Zealand needs a National-led Government going forward.

"I want to see National win," he said, when asked if he could work under Muller.

He said he was "disappointed" at today's result, but he also said he was a bit relieved.

Muller expects to be PM in September

New National leader Todd Muller says he expects to be Prime Minister after September's election and won't rule out a deal with Winston Peters and New Zealand First.

After the sacrifices New Zealand made to fight Covid-19, Muller said it was time to take a step forward to rebuild the country.

Only National can do that, he said.

"The task for the next Government is immense."

The new National leader says he expects to be Prime Minister after New Zealand's September election.

In his first speech as National's new leader, he said the size of the task is enormous - "but I will bring my all to it".

He said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was "impressive" and down to earth.

But he said there were only two or three lifters in the Government's Cabinet.

He said New Zealanders will have to look to see which party has the best plan for New Zealand.

Going ahead, National is the best party for the economy, he said.

The first few hours have been "pretty full on", he said.

He referenced the fact that Ardern became Opposition leader just six weeks out from the election.

He said he will now focus on New Zealanders getting to know him.

'The most decent person I know'

Kaye told reporters this afternoon that Muller was "the most decent person I know".

She said he has "huge integrity".

She has confidence that Muller can unit both the more conservative, and liberal sides of the party

Reshuffle and policies

On policies, Muller said they are all still on the table.

That includes tax cuts and an economic response with families at the centre.

Asked about a reshuffle, Muller said he will keep Paul Goldsmith in finance.

Muller said he will be bringing his skills as a businessman to his role as Leader of the Opposition.

The economy, he said, would be National's focus.

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For too long, he said New Zealanders have been invisible to this Government.

The new leader said he was not interested in "opposition for opposition sake".

He said he wanted to work with the Government on issues, such as climate change but would still hold the Coalition to account.

He said the Government has talked a big game, but it had failed to deliver and that National will meet the challenges this country faces.

He wouldn't say who voted for him - he said the caucus vote was "very respectful".

Muller said he was "really hopeful he would be on the news tonight" when asked how he was going to get more well known to New Zealanders.

Muller refused to go into any details about what happened in caucus.

"We always have moments, every party does."

But he said National remains unified.

National MPs voted to make Todd Muller their new leader at caucus today. Photo / pool
National MPs voted to make Todd Muller their new leader at caucus today. Photo / pool

"The feeling in that caucus room was incredibly positive," he said.

He said his view is that the economic crisis New Zealand now faces, is the biggest in its history.

Muller said the Government was one of high promise, and low delivery.

He spoke about the Climate Change Bill, which he said made sense.

The message he wanted to portray was that National is a caucus of "remarkable talent".

On abortion, he said his perspective was influenced by his Catholic faith, which was "intrinsic" to who he is.

A deal with NZ First?

Asked about working with Winston Peters, he said that has not been in front of the caucus.

He said there is a chance that caucus' decision could be changed.

He said the important thing, from now on for National, was the policy response to Covid-19.