National MP Stuart Smith says Chris Luxon’s experience running an airline would put him in good stead to run the National Party.
Smith also said he thought whoever was deputy leader of the party would likely be a woman.
Smith was speaking on his way into Parliament on Tuesday morning ahead of a caucus showdown between Luxon and former leader Simon Bridges over who should replace Judith Collins as leader.
Collins lost a vote of confidence at a caucus meeting last week after a botched attempt to demote Bridges over a years-old complaint about crude language.
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It is looking increasingly likely that the leadership will be decided by a vote, despite efforts to broker some kind of deal between Luxon and Bridges.
Like every other National MP on their way into Parliament on Tuesday morning, Smith was tight-lipped about who exactly he would be supporting as leader.
But asked if Luxon had enough experience, Smith said he did.
“I think he’s got enough experience, I think he managed to run an airline fairly well,” Smith said.
“There are similarities. They are not the same – but I think it’s just people management, and that is what he is very good at.”
Luxon is said to be pushing for National MP Nicola Willis to be his deputy, arguing in part that some gender balance is needed on top of the party.
Smith said the gender of the deputy leader was “irrelevant” as the best person should serve – but said he thought it would be a woman.
Willis herself was tight-lipped on the way in, just saying National needed to unite as a team to “beat Jacinda Ardern”.
“Today is a good day for National,” Willis said.
“We’re going to be great, let’s beat Jacinda Ardern.”
Other MPs were also reticent to say much, saying the leadership was a matter for caucus.
National MP Nicola Willis did not confirm who she was supporting in the leadership race or whether she was going for a deputy position ahead of the caucus meeting on Tuesday.
“We’ve got incredible talent in our caucus and I know there are some great opportunities for us to focus on the things that matter to New Zealanders,” Taupo MP Louise Upston said.
Several MPs defended the fact the contest looked likely to go down to a vote, despite efforts by party higher-ups to broker a deal between Luxon and Bridges.
“Look, we’re a party that believes in democracy, and it’s very important that we as a party have a chance to think these things through,” Rotorua MP Todd McClay said on his way in.
“It’s a very important decision we have to make – the caucus will make the right one.“
National Party sources have generally agreed that the vote is close, but Luxon is slightly ahead, although many think those votes are soft.
The National Party’s former pollster, David Farrar, said he understood Luxon had 18 votes to Bridges’ 15.