Judith Collins to The AM Show: Now is the "right time" to become new National Party leader

The AM Show 15/07/2020

By Jamie Ensor of Newshub:

Judith Collins says it was the "right time" for her to become leader, promising Kiwis that the National Party emerged on Tuesday night "a very strong team".

In her first major media interview, Collins, the Papakura MP and a former minister under the Key and English Government, told The AM Show that National was "one team".

Her election was prompted by the resignation of Todd Muller on Tuesday morning. After a day of speculation about who would replace him, Collins came out of the caucus room as the leader. Gerry Brownlee will be her deputy.

It just seemed like the right time. It was obviously the right time and that's just what it was.

Collins wouldn't divulge what happened in caucus, but believes the party is united behind her ahead of the September 19 election.

I like to think that everybody voted for me because that is the way that we work it, if we even had a vote. We are not discussing what happened in the caucus room, but I can tell you that we emerged a very strong team.

"In the end, you would have seen that the caucus came down to the first press conference all supporting me, and that is the way that I like to believe it all happened. Everything with everyone supporting me and Gerry."

There have previously been leaks to Newshub about what goes on behind National's closed doors, but Collins said it was important that "[caucus knows] that we are now absolutely one team and we are working together". 

It is really important that we start as I mean to continue which is that what happens in caucus stays in caucus.

Following her election, Collins' team followed her to her first media standup, surrounding her and Browlnee on-stage, which The AM Show host Duncan Garner said was a "strong look".

"What I did say to everyone is 'would you like to come down?' and people just said 'yup, let's go'. You can't move those National Party MPs unless they want to be moved. I can tell you they wanted to come down."

She said after doing her media round on Wednesday, she would sit down and look at "mild changes" to her colleagues' portfolios.

"We will have a few, couple of changes, not that many. We are only a few weeks out from the election. We need to be very focused, but at the same time I don't want people having to chop and change portfolios right before an election. I think that is a bit foolish, but there is obviously going to be a couple of changes around Gerry and myself and a few other people."

Collins said that former deputy Nikki Kaye would remain in Education and that a role would be "available" for Muller. She wouldn't say if Muller would be on her frontbench. 

I think he is a great guy. We want him back on the team.

She hears from a friend of Muller's that he is "very happy with what's happened and that he absolutely supports the change".

Collins hinted there won't be any massive policy changes under her leadership, telling The AM Show there was already a "stream of policy coming out".

"We are just going to have a quick look through that, see if there is anything [that] needs tweaking, but I am pretty confident that our policy programme is very well developed and we will be having more coming out very soon."