There is a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which a French soldier looks at King Arthur and his knights and hollers "I fart in your general direction" before hurling livestock at them.

That scene is apparently the code of conduct for the National Party leadership contest.

Direct strikes are frowned upon so the candidates have taken to lobbing loaded statements in the general direction of their foes and hoping onlookers are smart enough to figure out who will be enveloped in the fug.

After Steven Joyce announced he was putting his name in the ring, Simon Bridges said there were some who seemed to think all National had to do was "stay with what we've got" and the voters would reinstall them in 2020.


That, he said, was wrong – National needed to "freshen up" a bit.

It was effectively code for saying Joyce was old guard, a bit musty while Bridges was the freshen-up job.

Mitchell pointed to his team building skills, which would translate to coalition building skills. Translation: Winston doesn't like any of the other guys.

Adams played up her rural home base and used words such as compassion and integrity. Translation: the others don't have any.

Collins was less subtle. She issued many farts in directions of varying specificity.

First was her declaration that the 'mark' she would put on her own leadership was 35 per cent in the polls. Translation: should the next leader's polling drop near that level, beware: here comes Judith.

Then she said National needed to 'straighten up' from a leftwards drift.

Translation: the others are cowardly, wussy liberals. She even identified the most wussy of all – Amy Adams.


There was her response to Mark Mitchell, the rookie of the pack.

She said it was great that people were "willing to put their political ambitions at risk" by wanting the job.

It pointed Mitchell to the cautionary tale of David Shearer, who became Labour leader in 2011 only to be forced out by his colleagues and eventually leave altogether, a promising political career stymied by prematurely realised ambition.

Adams and Bridges are considered front runners but Joyce is just getting started and his impact remains unknown. He has some influential support.

It is notable English gave Joyce advance warning of his decision to resign – and let it be known he had done so.

It is notable because when John Key decided to go, he gave English advance warning.

It is understood English told Joyce prior to Waitangi Day.

Joyce was filling in for English at Waitangi. He delivered what can only be described as a leadership-style speech there. It was measured and statesmanlike.

In hindsight it was an audition, designed to show he was in the wings to move up from his self-proclaimed role of "just here to make the tea" (back-room strategist) to the job of leader.

For some, Joyce is the comfort blanket option. He spells the continuation of the Key Empire.

He has been such a powerful figure within National for the past 10 years that the MPs know who he is, how he operates and how his elevation might affect them.

Some don't necessarily like the answer to the last of those and that could cost him.

Poor old Joyce has often been a scapegoat for National – and a laughing stock.

Joyce's "pretty legal" verdict on the 2014 'Eminem-esque' soundtrack used in that campaign came back to haunt him. He was literally gobsmacked by a dildo at Waitangi.

The caucus is also somewhat divided on Joyce's attempt to discredit Labour by claiming there was an $11.7 billion fiscal hole in its budget.

There are hole deniers, hole believers and hole agnostics.

Joyce has also copped the blame in some quarters for National's position in Opposition.

This was not lost on the man who actually did send them there - NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Peters clearly did not get sent a copy of National's Monty Python code of conduct and farted directly at them.

He set Bridges' odds at 500-1, saying Bridges' tendency to refer to himself in the third person showed "a recognition hunger problem."

Joyce was also at 500-1, courtesy of that fiscal hole and his "dirty tricks." Adams was at 30 – 1 but moving back through the field.

He gave Collins and Mitchell odds of 10-1. Then he warned Mitchell's hostage negotiation skills would be needed.