Senior National MP Judith Collins says she has full support for the "National Party leader" but has refused to say the words "I support Simon Bridges as National leader".
Speaking to media this morning, Collins also would not rule out a leadership bid – saying only that she had "no plans" to be the National leader "today, or in the near future that I'm aware of".
The Papakura MP was this morning asked repeatedly if she supported National leader Bridges but refused to say the words "I support Simon Bridges as leader of the National Party".
"I always support the leader. Simon has been voted in as the leader so of course."
Asked if she would say she was loyal to Bridges, Collins instead said: "I am loyal to the National Party".
"The National Party, of course, is not a cult and I always support the leader and he was chosen as the leader just over a year ago, so I absolutely support him."
When pressed, she would not say the words "I support Simon Bridges".
"I can say anything I like, really. But I do know that I'm very, very clear that I'm a good, loyal National Party supporter and always have been.
"I'm loyal to my caucus and to the leader – Simon is the leader so of course I support him."
Asked why she couldn't say the words "I support Simon Bridges", she said "it's not a personal thing".
"It's the position of leader and I always support the leader and Simon is the leader, so of course I support him."
She would not, however, rule out a leadership bid.
"I'm not doing anything today; I'm not doing anything in the near future that I'm aware of."
She said Bridges should trust her.
"I'm a very good person, a good member of the National Party and I do my job. I think everyone should just do their job."
Collins has been climbing in the preferred Prime Minister rankings and, in the most recent 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll, Collins and Bridges were both neck-and-neck at 5 per cent.
Bridges told media yesterday none of his MP had raised any issues with his leadership with him directly.
National today has its first caucus meeting after the Easter break.
Asked if there would be talk of leadership at caucus today, Collins said: "I don't know – I'm not planning anything".