Amy Adams has capped off a trio of announcements in the battle to become National’s next leader, touting her blend of urban and rural values and experience as a minister.
Adams’ confirmation of a leadership bid means she joins Simon Bridges and Judith Collins as the only announced candidates to date, following Bill English’s resignation.
The former lawyer packed a punch with her announcement, made on the lawn of the Parliamentary library with support from colleagues Nikki Kaye, Chris Bishop, Maggie Barry and Tim Macindoe.
Adams said she had “pretty much begged” English to stay, but believed she was best placed to replace him and lead National to victory in 2020.
“I want to see a New Zealand that is progressive, that is prosperous, that is compassionate, and that backs those who want to get ahead.”
She touted a unique “blend” of urban and rural experience, having grown up in Auckland before moving to Canterbury with her sheep farmer husband Don – “Happy Valentine’s Day Don, this wasn’t how I’d planned it,” she quipped.
Adams said her six years as a Cabinet minister showed she was able to tackle the hard issues, while her personal upbringing had also informed her values.
“I grew up with a solo mother, we didn’t have a lot of money but she instilled in me the understanding of hard work and the necessity to get on and provide and get a good education and build a life for yourself.”
Describing herself as “economically conservative and socially liberal”, Adams said she could bring the generational change touted by some MPs as necessary despite her role as a senior minister in the last government.
“Actually, I think change is more around a fresh perspective and a desire to see the party evolve to keep up with the mood of the public.”
The MPs flanking Adams were effusive in their praise: Kaye described her as “an extraordinary New Zealander” and Macindoe as “one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with in my life”.
“When I think about the type of prime minister I’d like to serve under, that’s someone who governs with a hard head and a soft heart,” Bishop said.
Earlier, Bridges said he had decided to run after a number of colleagues came to him following Bill English’s decision to step down.
The 41-year-old said he offered “the right blend of of both generational change but also experience”, having served as a senior minister in the last government.
Bridges said he was confident National could win back power in 2020, but said the party would need to evolve if it was to do so.
“We do need to renew and refresh and that means in policy terms; I also think it means in terms of our people, blending that experience we’ve got which makes a real difference but also with the bundles of talent that we have in the National caucus and ensuring that continues to come through so that we are the party with yes the opposition, a strong opposition.”
Bridges said it was too early to speak about which policy positions he would change, but said the party had to appeal to a wide swathe of New Zealand.
“We are a broad church, we are strongest as a National Party when we are speaking to New Zealanders from all walks of life.”
Bridges offered praise for his leadership rivals, calling Adams an “exceptional person” and Collins “a star”, but said he did not intend to run with either on a joint ticket.
“I’m focused on Simon Bridges becoming the leader of the National Party and running our opposition, leading it in a strong way and getting us to government in the 2020s.”
He did not see a vacancy in the deputy’s role and said he could work with incumbent Paula Bennett, but said it was ultimately up to the caucus to decide.
Collins, a former Police and Corrections Minister from the right of the party, was first off the mark after announcing her leadership bid in a post on Twitter.
“I’m announcing my candidacy for Leader of the NZ National Party. We’re going to need strong & decisive leadership if we’re going to win in 2020. I’m that person.”
Collins also mounted a bid after John Key stepped down in December 2016, although she eventually withdrew her bid and endorsed English.
The 58-year-old has been the subject of controversy in the past, resigning from Cabinet in 2014 following allegations she had undermined the head of the Serious Fraud Office (she was later cleared of wrongdoing).
She is believed to have cultivated strong relationships with some of the party’s backbenchers, although it is unclear how many MPs would back her run.
Among other potential contenders, Nikki Kaye has ruled herself out of running for either leader or deputy, while Bennett said she did not want to be leader but would like to continue as deputy.
Mark Mitchell, Jonathan Coleman and Steven Joyce have all said they are still considering whether or not to run.