National Party MP Simon Bridges says talk of a leadership ticket with Christopher Luxon is “just chatter” but did not deny having discussed it with Luxon.
The NZ Herald revealed last week there was discussion among some MPs within National about Luxon either taking on the leadership in his first term, or a leadership ticket with Bridges as leader and Luxon as his deputy if Luxon decided to wait.
In a masterclass of cryptic answers on his way into a caucus meeting on Tuesday, Bridges first said “it’s just chatter”.
However, when asked if he discussed it with Luxon he replied: “I talk with lots of colleagues. I can’t be expected to remember everything I say.”
He added: “As Judith said, it’s all just rumour and speculation, and I support Judith Collins at this time.”
When he was asked what he meant by “at this time,” Bridges responded “look, don’t hang off my every phraseology, I wish you did when I was leader. There’s no truth in that.”
Bridges was regarded as being undermined by Collins at times during his leadership – and Bridges reportedly told Newshub’s Duncan Garner earlier in the week that he was simply showing Collins the same support she had showed him.
When he was asked on Tuesday whether he showed Collins the same support she showed him when he was leader, he claimed Collins had shown him “huge loyalty when I was leader, so of course I do.”
In the past few days, Bridges has fallen on other staple phrases used by MPs to pretend to hide leadership ambitions. One was his claim that he was “happy to be the MP for Tauranga” – a phrase Winston Peters once used. In the past, Collins had also used a variation of it, saying she was happy to be the MP for Papakura.
The media did not get a chance to ask Luxon about the reports: Luxon walked past Bridges at a fast clip, and was stopped by media outside the caucus door.
However, as soon as he was stopped, National’s deputy leader Shane Reti came out and took him into the caucus room.
Further setting tongues wagging was the news that the National Party was having two caucus meetings on Tuesday, instead of just one.
A spokesman said it was simply using the time freed up because Parliament adjourned early after marking the death of Prince Philip.
The caucus was to meet again at 5pm.It is understood that was for Bridges to lead a discussion on his portfolio areas of justice, water, and Crown-Maori relations.
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