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Simon Bridges acknowledges coup attempt within his own party after disastrous poll

Simon Bridges admitted there is strain within his own party, with colleagues set on going for his and deputy leader Paula Bennett's jobs.

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The National Party leader defended his role after disastrous poll results lead to questions of his leadership. Source: 1 NEWS

The National Party leader defended his role on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning after disastrous poll results this week led to renewed questions of his leadership.

Support for National sunk 12.7 percentage points, to 30.6 per cent, in the latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll. In that same poll, the National leader was down 6.1 to 4.5 per cent in the preferred prime minister stakes. 

"The leadership of the National Party is a focus. I'm aware that a couple of my colleagues will challenge or seek to challenge myself and Paula Bennett as leader of and deputy leader of the National Party," he told Breakfast host Jenny-May Clarkson.

"I want to see this resolved very quickly so we can get back, Jenny-May, to focusing on the things that matter to New Zealanders, to Kiwis, no matter if it's our livelihoods or our aspirations in uncertain times."

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1 NEWS understands the challengers are Nikki Kaye and Todd Muller. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Bridges wouldn't name anyone who he believed would contest his role, saying it was up to them to declare their leadership intentions. However, earlier this morning Mr Bridges told the AM Show that one of those people is MP Mark Mitchell.

1 NEWS understands Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye will contest the leadership. 

When asked on Breakfast if he would step down, given his statement that he wants the situation to be resolved quickly, Mr Bridges was reluctant.

"I'm not going to do that. I'm very confident I will win," he said.

"But I want to put it to the test against the challengers so we can resolve it as a caucus, and as I say, look, move on.

"Politics to me isn't a popularity contest or something. It's actually about ideas, values, plans and who can deliver those, and I think in National under my leadership we have got the team and the track record that's shown we've done that.

"There's no doubt that this sort of stuff is a distraction but we'll resolve it quickly so that National can be there fighting for New Zealanders who are losing their jobs, raising and showing positive plans on how we'll deal with some of these issues, as I say, like big spending and debt and the problems for our country."

Mr Bridges said when it comes to polls, though, before Covid-19 National was the most popular political party by some way.

He added that after the immediate health response to the crisis, focus will return to economic issues.

"Those issues of jobs and growth and tax and debt - those are National's strength," he said. "Now we move to, I think, probably the most serious issue of our times economically. I mean, we've flattened the curve, we don't want to flatten the economy.

"We've stopped one wave of devastation but we've got another one coming on us, really a tsunami of debt and economic woes, and I think National under my leadership is the team to deal with those things."