By Henry Cooke, Stuff
Phones are running hot in thLe National Party as senior figures push for a new leader to be decided before a contested vote tomorrow.
National’s caucus are meeting at 3pm on Tuesday to decide a new leader after ousting Judith Collins with a no confidence vote over her botched attempt to demote Simon Bridges.
Bridges is the only official candidate in the running, but former Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon also has many MPs behind him
If it goes down to a vote, either potential leader would need 17 MPs backing them, including themselves.
From several National Party sources there is a push from senior figures to have a deal done between Bridges and Luxon so one of them – likely Luxon – can be crowned leader unopposed, with the other in a senior role on the front-bench.
An MP confirmed that there was a push to have the leadership decided before a vote.
Luxon’s mentor former Prime Minister Sir John Key is said to be crucial to this push, but Key denied making calls in express support for Luxon on Saturday.
One source said Luxon was likely to have the numbers as it stood, but any contest would be a loss for the party.
“If they end up having a vote that in itself signals disunity. Especially after everyone has been focused on a seamless transition,” they said.
Luxon’s numerical edge is said to be buttressed by the support of several MPs loyal to Collins, including Harete Hipango, David Bennett, Maureen Pugh, and Andrew Bayly.
Collins has already publicly said she prefers Luxon to Bridges.
“Luxon’s numbers are soft and propped up by Collins which is not a stable foundation for a successful leadership,” the source said.
Luxon is refusing to comment, telling journalists over the weekend that he will not say anything ahead of the meeting out of respect for his colleagues.
One source said Luxon was eyeing Nicola Willis for deputy leader, arguing she would bring gender balance to the ticket. This could introduce issues as the Bridges’ camp is still angry at Willis for her role in the coup that installed Todd Muller. However, a National MP told Stuff that speculation was premature.