BREAKING: Todd Muller resigns as National Party leader

Latest 14/07/2020

This is a developing story. Please listen to Magic Talk or Newshub for the latest updates.

Todd Muller has resigned as the National Party leader.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Muller said "it has become clear to me that I am not the best person to be Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the New Zealand National Party at this critical time for New Zealand".

Muller became the party's leader on May 22 after he rolled Simon Bridges. His deputy was Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Todd Muller has resigned as the National Party leader
  • MPs had an emergency teleconference on Tuesday morning to decide how to proceed
  • Nikki Kaye, Muller's deputy, is the acting leader until a vote occurs
  • A meeting will be held in Wellington on Tuesday night
  • Jacinda Ardern has sent her best wishes to Muller

Update the page for the latest updates:

9:30am - Former National Party Finance Minister Steven Joyce told NZME that it was a "tough time" for the party. He has yet to speak to Muller or Kaye.

Joyce said with Muller being elected leader so close to the election, the pressure was piled on.

"My read of it, looking at his press release, is that obviously, obviously, it's created some health issues from his perspective. You have got to respect that."

His advice to MPs was to unite behind a single figure "who you believe will do the best job now and then shut up and get on with it".

The former United Future leader, Peter Dunne, said Judith Collins is in a good position to become leader.

"It's staunching the wound that's important... she's probably best-placed to do that," he told NZME.

9:20am - Act leader David Seymour has now commented on the resignation.

"Being a leader is a much more competitive environment and I admire him for having the self-honesty and the honesty with those around him to recognise it wasn’t working and you’ve got to give him some respect for that."

8:55am - New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has sent his sympathies to Muller and his family. 

"Todd is a good man, unlike most of his colleagues he does have commercial experience, and he will bounce back.

"Leading a divided and incompetent caucus would have tested even the best leader. The National caucus now has the unenviable job of selecting its fourth leader since the Coalition Government took office.

"The National caucus, like too many parties in parliament, lacks business experience, life experience and political experience. Heaven only knows who will be the next cab off the ranks selected to lead such a dispirited and incompetent lot."

Peters said Muller "never had a chance given the fault lines of ambition, personality, and ideology that run deep through the National Party caucus".

"National has demonstrated to voters as clearly as it is able that it cannot govern itself.

"During a time of crisis, when stability and real experience is what the country needs from its politicians and their parties, National's instability and hubris takes it out of the running for the coming General Election.

"Voters will now focus on which parties have demonstrated stability and exhibited the experience required to help guide New Zealand through its present challenges."

8:50am - Nikki Kaye will be the acting leader of the National Party until caucus votes.

8:30am - Bryce Edwards said the conversation will now turn to who Muller's replacement will be. He said the likes of Nikki Kaye and Judith Collins will be in the conversation. 

"Judith Collins will be talked about, but her association with dirty politics I think will rule her out. Some people will be nostalgic for maybe Simon Bridges coming back, but again I think that would be a backwards move.

"Amy Adams is another option".

Gerry Brownlee could take on a caretaker-like role, Edwards and The AM Show's Duncan Garner suggested.

8:25am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she has "just heard the news about the resignation of Mr Muller as leader of the National Party".

"No matter what side of parliament you’re sitting, politics is a difficult place. I have passed on my best wishes to Mr Muller and his family."

8:20am - Newshub understands an emergency meeting will be held at 7pm on Tuesday night, with MPs flying into Wellington throughout the day. The party wants it wrapped within 24 hours.

8:05am - Political commentator Bryce Edwards said Muller's handling of last week's "Hamish Walker debacle" was the "turning point".

"National had been doing quite well rebuilding under Muller, but then with the Hamish Walker debacle and Muller's role in it, it was looking like they couldn't win this election."

Edwards said Muller would have been under immense pressure. He said the question will now turn to who his replacement will be.

8am - Judith Collins replied to a message from Newshub saying she couldn't talk.

7:55am - News of Muller's resignation broke during The AM Show. Host Duncan Garner reacted with shock.

"I don't think he was ready to be leader because he was the numbers man. From my understanding, from what I knew about this coup, Nikki Kaye and Todd Muller were in charge of getting the numbers for the leader but that leader pulled out and didn't want the job at the end, he didn't have the guts for this and that's when Muller and Kaye were promoted.

"They didn't look comfortable from day one. He didn't have a plan, that says everything. He was goldfishing from the start."

He said it was a "devastating blow to the party".

Sports presenter Mark Richardson said he was left "shocked" by the announcement.

"I say good on him for making this move, it would have been very, very easy to have gone 'I can't, people are relying on me so I need to see this through the election.' But it's not right for him, I think it's a great move."

7:50am - In his first weeks in the job, Muller had to explain a Make America Great Again cap in his office and the lack of Māori MPs on his front bench.

Last week, the National Party became embroiled in scandal after backbench MP Hamish Walker admitted leaking personal health data of COVID-19 patients to the media. He received that information from former National Party President Michelle Boag.

7:35am - Muller has just released a statement announcing he would stand down as the National Party leader.

He said the role had taken a "heavy toll on me personally and on my family and this has become untenable from a health perspective".

"For that reason I will be stepping down as Leader effective immediately," Muller said.

"I intend to take some time out of the spotlight to spend with family and restore my energy before reconnecting with my community.

"I look forward to continuing to serve as a loyal member of the National Party team and Member of Parliament for Bay of Plenty."