Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has today announced his intention to run for leader of the National Party.
He joins Judith Collins, who has also thrown her hat in ring, following Bill English's surprise resignation on Tuesday.
Simon says since Bill stepped down, many colleagues have spoken to him about standing for leader, giving him confidence he has ‘strong support' in caucus.
“We can win in 2020 and I'm excited about that. We have the best values for this country, whether it's personal freedom and responsibility, to strong families,” he says.
“But we do need to renew and refresh. That means blending our experience with the bundles of talent we have in the caucus and ensure that continues to come through.
“I think I bring that blend of generational change as well as the experience I have in government and now in opposition.”
He says he's ‘upbeat' about the leadership contest, and is looking forward to pitching his case to his caucus colleagues in the next two weeks.
“There will be many people in the caucus thinking this through and I'm sure there will be strong competition.”
He has spoken favourably of other potential leadership contenders, including Amy Adams and Steven Joyce, and made positive comments about Judith Collins.
“I think she is a star who brings a lot to the caucus. Whatever happens you would want her in your line-up. She has great values and speaks to a lot New Zealanders.”
He says he is not interested in running on a ‘ticket' with a potential new deputy leader.
“At the moment we have a situation where we have a deputy and there is no vacancy. I could work with Paula Bennett.”
Although he won't say at this stage what his vision would be for National in terms of new policies, Simon says the main focus for him would be becoming a real government-in-waiting.
“If you look at what happened to the Labour opposition, they were there for nine years, and I don't think they had a strong agenda for leading the country. We need to oppose the things that need to be opposed, but we also need evolve with the times.
“We're more positive and aspirational for New Zealand, ironically, than the government. New Zealand is a great country with a strong economy, and there's no reason – other than bad policies – for that to change.”
At 41, Simon would be one of the youngest people to hold the position of National Party leader – although Bill English and Jim McClay were both 39 and 38, respectively, when they took on the role.