The National Party caucus has elected Chris Luxon as the party’s new leader and Nicola Willis as his deputy

After a 30-minute caucus meeting on Tuesday, Botany MP Chris Luxon was elected the new leader of the National Party. List MP Nicola Willis was made deputy leader.

“The unified National Party that Nicola and I lead will work every day to represent all New Zealanders, earn back their trust and confidence, and deliver for them,” Luxon said in a statement.

In a speech at Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Luxon described his short time as an MP as “an advantage. I bring a fresh set of eyes, and what I see is that this place and this country needs a shake-up.

“Nicola and I are fresh new faces for a revitalised National Party. We are the reset.”

Luxon conceded he might make mistakes in the role, but that the “strong team” in his caucus would back him up.

He compared the National Party to an “under-performing company”, something he said he had a good record of repairing. He made a direct appeal to the “413,000 voters” who left National at the 2020 election.

“My message to you is: from today, National is back.”

The new leader also took aim at the Government, which he said had set New Zealand on a “road to mediocrity”. He said Aucklanders were “directionless” in lockdown, farmers had been labelled “villains” and that inflation was hurting everyday New Zealanders.

The leadership had been up for grabs after Judith Collins was spectacularly ousted on Thursday when the caucus voted no confidence in her. 

An emergency caucus meeting was called after Collins released a statement on Wednesday night demoting former leader Simon Bridges to the bottom of the caucus rankings and stripping him of his portfolios. The demotion was in relation to alleged crude remarks Bridges made to National MP Jacqui Dean in 2016.

On Friday Bridges indicated he would once again contest the leadership and over the course of the weekend Luxon entered the race as well. But barely an hour before the 3pm caucus meeting on Tuesday, Bridges revealed in a tweet that he had decided to support Luxon.

Nicola Willis is the new deputy leader of the National Party.

“This morning I met with Chris Luxon and had a great discussion. I am withdrawing from the leadership contest and will be backing Chris. He will make a brilliant National leader and Prime Minister,” Bridges wrote.

Ahead of the caucus meeting, it was unclear who might land the deputy role, though Wellington-based Willis was considered a frontrunner.

Luxon entered Parliament in 2020 after winning the safe National seat of Botany. He’d previously held the role of chief executive at Air New Zealand.

There was speculation that Luxon wanted more time in Parliament before being thrust into the leadership, but with Collins’ implosion last week he was left to make a decision quickly after Bridges showed his hand.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key is a close friend of Luxon and has reportedly been helping make the case for him to take the helm.

Key is also known to be supportive of Willis, who was one of his advisors during his time in opposition and his first term as Prime Minister. After that, she worked in a variety of roles at the dairy cooperative Fonterra.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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