National caucus convening to elect new leader for final 2 hours of the campaign

This is a breaking news event, and further updates and clarifications may be forthcoming.

This is a breaking news event, and further updates and clarifications may be forthcoming.

With less than three hours to go in the election campaign, The National Party is holding an emergency meeting to elect a new leader, one they hope can turn things around in the final one and a half to two hours before the election.

The meeting was called after tonight’s Newshub-Reid Research poll, the final of the campaign, left the party without any more hope of winning in its current state.

“I think that was the deal breaker for us, honestly,” said one high ranking MP. “There was some hope that, you know, okay, you get a good final poll, hope for a bit of a polling error, and then squeeze over the line, but I think it’s obvious now Judith can’t do it, and the question is do we have time for one more? And if so, who can?”

The MP asked not to be identified, but we can tell you he is one of the top two ranked MPs in the caucus, and is of a masculine persuasion.

The MP, as well as several others spoken to in the last half hour, believes the final two hours of the campaign will be critical.

“It’s that kind of 10:30pm through 11:59pm period of the campaign, on election eve, where, that’s when we want to really capture voters, and if we’re able to introduce the leader to the country before 11pm, sort of, lay out a new policy direction and a vision by 11:15pm, front bench reshuffle sometime in the next ten minutes, then that gives us a whole 25 minutes to really travel the country and make the case.”

The caucus meeting is set to commence at 9:30pm, in just around 20 minutes, and will be held via Zoom. It’s reported, though, that some MPs, such as Tauranga’s Simon Bridges, don’t have fast enough internet to participate from home, and may have to find their way to Wellington.

It will soon be up to Collins to convince the caucus why she is still the person to lead National through the final 90 minutes of the campaign, and why it would be risky to hand that responsibility to someone less experienced.

It’s presently unclear who would replace Collins, though Mark Mitchell, Simon Bridges and Christopher Luxon’s head have all put up their hands.

But the challenger with the most existing support is understood to be the Auckland Southern Motorway, which would serve as leader outside caucus until it could be brought in on the party list.

The motorway is widely trusted across the party’s various factions.

If the motorway could retain the leadership all the way to the election, it would have the strongest chance of staying on afterwards.

9:15pm UPDATE: Simon Bridges is currently the subject of a speeding-related police pursuit heading south along the Desert Road.