National leadership hopefuls jockey for position hours after Bill English announces his exit from politics

National MPs eyeing a tilt at the party's leadership are already jockeying for position behind the scenes and number crunching following leader Bill English's announcement this morning that he's quitting politics.

Mr English's resignation will take effect in two weeks on Tuesday February 27 and he will leave Parliament for the last time on Thursday March 1.

The National Party leader and former PM stepped down today after entering Parliament in 1990. Source: 1 NEWS

National's MPs will choose the next leader and the candidates have just two weeks to lobby them before the vote.

None have publicly thrown their hats in the ring yet.

1 NEWS Political Editor Corin Dann says today has been "Bill's day" and says National sources have stressed they wanted "a bit of clear air" so people could assess his legacy and give him the respect they felt he deserved.

"Tomorrow though is another day. And that's when we're really going too see things start to move, I think, and candidates coming forward," Dann said tonight. 

"There's a lot of jockeying going on behind the scenes, a lot of number crunching, all that sort of thing for these candidates to work it out."

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams are the most likely frontrunners, but others could take a shot, Dann said. 

The long-serving politician and former prime minister announced he’s quitting politics for good. Source: 1 NEWS

"And what is so interesting about this race is that there isn't one clear, obvious candidate sitting there like there was when John Key went and he anointed Bill English effectively. It's wide open and we've got a genuine race," he said.

Dann said he thinks Mr English's departure is "a huge loss for National". 

"He was a politician of great respect, great mana, who had an enormous amount of policy grunt and did an enormous amount of work for that party. He was also very trusted and very liked by the public. He is going to be very difficult to replace," he said. 

"But the issue is did he still want to be there? And if he didn't - as it appears he wanted to go - then he needed to go so the party could rebuild and they could start again and the new leader can have time to try and rebuild to 2020."

Mr English has been an MP for 27 years after being elected in 1990, and for eight years was finance minister and deputy prime minister under John Key. Mr English was prime minister for 10 months after taking over from Mr Key in December 2016 but lost it to Jacinda Ardern last October. 

Mr English struggled to hold back emotions today as he fronted at Parliament with his family by his side to announce he's quitting politics. 

"This is more about myself and my family. They've spent all of their lives with the demands of politics and I want the opportunity to be able to start again on a different life without politics," he said.

And he's leaving with a  message to his MPs to make sure the contest to replace him doesn't turn nasty. 

That's a recipe for staying in opposition,  regardless of the quality of government," he said.

1 NEWS’ Political editor gives his analysis after Bill English stepped down today. Source: 1 NEWS