National's leadership challenger Todd Muller has arrived in Wellington ahead of tomorrow's emergency caucus meeting where he will take on Simon Bridges for the job.

Muller has not yet been seen at Parliament, however.

Leader Simon Bridges is also in Wellington and has pulled out of his media slots for the day, including with Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch in Christchurch and The Country.

With the rest of the MPs still scattered around the country both men will spend the day on the phone, calling MPs to secure support and re-calling those already talked to to shore up that support or try to persuade them to switch a vote.


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Muller confirmed yesterday that he would challenge Bridges for the role in an email to MPs which said he did not believe National could win the election under Bridges. Nikki Kaye is his running mate to be deputy.

It came after a dramatic morning in which Bridges had said he was aware that a challenge was being mounted against him. An emergency caucus meeting was called for Friday, recalling MPs who were back at their homes for the recess week rather than waiting until the usual Tuesday morning meeting.

One of the MPs helping to muster Muller's support said they believed they were in a "strong position". It was "unlikely" that the leadership would be resolved before that caucus meeting.

However, it remains unclear whether they have the 28 votes needed for a majority in the caucus. The ballot is secret.

Todd Muller, left, is publicly challenging Simon Bridges for the National leadership.
Todd Muller, left, is publicly challenging Simon Bridges for the National leadership.

Bridges' camp insisted yesterday that they had the numbers - but MPs could be changing their minds as the contest rolls out, especially if it starts to look as if one contender has the edge.

Many MPs will still be undecided. One said he was waiting to give the contenders a chance to put their pitches to the caucus tomorrow before making up his mind.

It was sparked by a Newshub Reid Research poll which had National at just 30.6 per cent, taken in the last week of the level 3 Covid-19 lockdown.


The 1 News Colmar Brunton poll will land tonight after polling began late last week and ended on Wednesday night. That polling period takes in many of the leadership ructions in National, as well as the Budget and the first days at level 2 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Woodhouse backs Bridges

Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse has strongly backed Bridges to retain the leadership.

Woodhouse told the Otago Daily Times that when National MPs meet tomorrow Bridges would have his support.

''Simon has my confidence," Woodhouse said.

''That's not just blind loyalty from being part of his team right from the get-go, that is a dispassionate assessment of what is best for New Zealand and what is best for the National party, and that is not to get stuck into a self-absorbed leadership crisis.''