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Veteran National MPs weigh in on Todd Muller and party leadership change

New National leader Todd Muller has a big task ahead of him, but his party colleagues appear to be backing him to the hilt.

Todd Muller, surrounded by the National Party MPs, makes his first speech as leader. Source: rnz.co.nz

Mr Muller - who has announced that he will take over the small business portfolio from Todd McClay - won yesterday's leadership race, defeating Simon Bridges.

Nikki Kaye will serve as deputy.

Veteran National Party MP Nick Smith said he had been through seven leadership changes and this one was done respectfully and professionally.

"It is a positive change that gives New Zealanders a real and serious choice for election 2020."

He said the focus in the next few months would be on the economy as the country grappled with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Smith said Mr Muller's business background put him in a prime position to lead the discussion about the right policies to help the economy.

"Yes [we've] got a popular Prime Minister but as people start seeing the scale of the job losses and the extent of the economic challenge, I think they will know that National is best equipped to deal with that for our country."

He said it was about as late a change of leadership as could happen, with the election in September.

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The Bay of Plenty MP successfully ousted former leader Simon Bridges in an emergency caucus meeting yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS

Social Development Spokesperson and Taupō MP Louise Upston said she did not know if her place in the caucus rankings would change, but she would accept whatever position Mr Muller chose for her.

She said the party's policies did not need much change.

"I think we've worked incredibly hard though the [Covid-19] crisis to raise issues that are relevant to New Zealanders.

"At the end of the day it is all about economic recovery and making sure that families and households have enough to look after themselves and that is what your focus will be."

National's Immigration spokesperson and Kaikōura MP Stuart Smith said the caucus was united behind the new leadership team.

He said the party was not starting from scratch in terms of policy, and he doubted there would be a major shift under Mr Muller's leadership.

"We have done a lot of policy work though the last year and so we've got that to draw on."

He said he rated Mr Muller's first speech and media appearance as leader this afternoon as "outstanding".

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The Bay of Plenty MP took over this afternoon after ousting Simon Bridges as National’s leader. Source: 1 NEWS

National MP and former Speaker David Carter said the party's new leader needed to lift his profile, so voters could get to know him.

Mr Carter would not say which way he voted, but said it was a fairly decisive result, and one he was happy with.

He did not think Mr Muller will have any difficulty connecting with New Zealanders.

rnz.co.nz