National MP Mark Mitchell has downplayed speculation he will run for the leadership, saying he is "a bit of a romantic" and wants Bill English to take National into the 2020 election.

Mitchell is understood to be considering putting his hand up for the job if English does decide to resign.

Mitchell said it was humbling to be considered a contender, but he was behind English and believed he could win in 2020. He would not talk about what he might do if English stepped down.

"I'm a bit of a romantic because I believe Bill deserves to get up. He's shown he's got the toughness and resilience and he believes so much in the country that he will do that that I'd love to see him go through and lead us in 2020."


Mitchell's romantic feelings did not extend to NZ First or its leader Winston Peters.

He said under MMP National had to keep its options open, but it would not be focused on NZ First other than holding them to account in government.

"We really do not give NZ First too much consideration or thought at all in terms of what we are doing. NZ First is going to have to look after themselves.

They ran their own campaign, they made their own promises. They told the country clearly what they were going to deliver. Now it's up to them to do that."

National leader Bill English seems to have the backing of his party. Photo / File
National leader Bill English seems to have the backing of his party. Photo / File

National's MPs are in the second day of their caucus retreat to Tauranga.

Other MPs were also saying they believed the English/ Paula Bennett combo could see the party through including Maggie Barry, Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins.

Coleman said he did not believe there would be a leadership coup between now and the next election.

Judith Collins said English had her full backing and was doing "an outstanding job."

Deputy leader Paula Bennett said she had no intention of going for the leadership herself. "I do not intend at any stage to go for the leadership in any of the permutations that might happen in the future. But as I always say as well, you're all not going to believe it until that happens."

She admitted reports from unnamed MPs that they wanted her to go was not one of her favourite moments of politics.

However, she felt she did her job well and had support. "That's what matters at the end of the day."

She denied the combination of herself and English would not be 'fresh' enough, saying she had a fresh new look after her stomach surgery and English had strong support. She said it was a combination of experience and fresh new MPs.

"If you're not changing and evolving and modernising and reassessing where you are, well you're stale and that's not what we want to be."

Bennett denied National was labouring under a delusion it could form a government alone, saying while National did focus on getting as large a share of the vote as possible, it was always interested in potential support partners and had a history of good governing relations with them

The focus was not on bringing Jacinda Ardern down, but ensuring National had ideas and was ready to implement them.

"That's our strategy and it's something we're incredibly good at in the National Party."

Collins said it was the best caucus meeting National had had in a decade.

"When you're in government you tend to get everything being led by the ministers. Having been a minister, you don't tend to mind at the time if you are a minister. But this is a great opportunity for everyone, including our newest MPs, to stand up and say what they think too."

Collins did not believe National had done anything particularly wrong in the campaign, saying its final result was "unbelievably good" for a third term government.

"But obviously we weren't able to secure the coalition. We are very keen to make sure we are leading the next government."

She said National would work out its approach to NZ First as it went along. "But there's quite a few people very upset at NZ First out there in the electorate, particularly for going to Labour and feeling they'd sold themselves out."

She said National could not worry about other parties, it had to ensure it was responding to New Zealanders.

There were more than two years until the next election - although she said National would welcome a snap election earlier.