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Mark Mitchell rules out challenging Judith Collins for National's leadership

Mark Mitchell has ruled out challenging Judith Collins for leadership of the National Party. 

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The MP has put his name forward for the position a number of times this year. Source: Q+A

Speaking on TVNZ1’s Q+A this morning, Whangaparāoa MP Mitchell said he had not thought of the possibility, and had "absolutely" ruled it out. 

"Absolutely not, it’s not on the table. It’s the furthest thing from my mind," he said.

He said he wasn’t blaming Collins for last night’s election loss.

National has 35 seats after the election and stand to lose a number of current MPs.

"Now, it’s a matter of us not looking back too much, looking forward," Mitchell said of National’s next steps.

Mitchell contested for the National leadership in May, which eventually saw former leader Simon Bridges rolled for Todd Muller. Leaks from the caucus to the media also revealed Mitchell ran for the leadership after Muller’s resignation. 

But today, he put most of the blame on the Covid-19 pandemic for National's poor showing at the polls.

Mitchell said with the disruption of the pandemic, "people don’t want too much change in their life" and decided to stick with the status quo. 

"Judith had a very tough job. In my view, she worked very hard."

He said it was tough for any leader to be "up against a swing" towards the left.

Host Jack Tame asked whether Covid-19 was to blame for the election result amid the party’s changing leadership and the controversial resignations of MPs like Andrew Falloon after he allegedly sent sexually explicit content to multiple women and Hamish Walker after he leaked Covid-19 patients’ personal information

In more recent times, an MP has told 1 NEWS there have been culture issues within the party with Collins as leader. A National MP has also said there had been zero strategy for the party this election. 

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The party's deputy leader told TVNZ1's Q+A Judith Collins wants to remain in the role. Source: Q+A

"Without a doubt, that would have had some impact in terms of how the public was viewing us as a party. But, we’ve got to fix that now," Mitchell said. 

He said the party would now be focused on preparing itself to be a strong Opposition alongside the 10-person ACT caucus. 

Collins said on Thursday in TVNZ’s final leaders’ debate she was doing a "very good job" as National’s leader, and that she'll stay on as leader even if she loses the election. 

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said in response on Thursday: "Having been around politics for a long time, one of the consequences of not being successful in an election often is the need to move on."

In February, Collins said if she was leader, she would set herself a threshold to resign if the party vote fell below 35 per cent in the polls.