You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
National MPs spent a frantic day on the phone yesterday, after Mr Bridges revealed in the morning that he was expecting a challenge to his leadership at next Tuesday’s caucus meeting.
By the afternoon Mr Bridges had opted to meet his challengers - Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye as his deputy - head-on at an emergency meeting in Wellington tomorrow.
Mr Woodhouse told the Otago Daily Times yesterday that when National MPs met Mr Bridges would have his support.
‘‘Simon has my confidence,’’Mr 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.’’
Mr Bridges and his deputy Paula Bennett would be the best team to lead National into September’s election campaign, Mr Woodhouse reaffirmed.
Speculation that Mr Bridges faced a challenge was sparked by a Newshub-Reid Research poll released on Monday, which recorded National with just 30.6% support - a figure which if it was repeated on election day would endanger the political futures of many senior list MPs, including Mr Woodhouse.
Results of a 1 News Colmar Brunton poll will be released tonight, and those results are thought likely to sway undecided MPs.
Mr Muller sent a letter to all National MPs late yesterday, advising them of his decision to contest the leadership.
‘‘It is essential that National wins this election ... I share the view of the majority of my colleagues that this is not possible under the current leadership.’’
Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker did not want to comment on the leadership speculation before he had the opportunity
to discuss the issue with his electorate executive.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean also did not wish to comment, other than to say she hoped the issue would be settled quickly.
Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, who will not be standing for re-election at the election in September, said she supported Mr Bridges and the leadership challenge was a distraction for the party.
- Additional reporting: New Zealand Herald