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Bennett, Bridges want deputy leader role

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/12/2016

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett and Transport Minister Simon Bridges will contest the deputy leadership of the National Party when caucus meets on Monday.

They're both backing Finance Minister Bill English to replace John Key as prime minister and they're confident he will win the caucus vote.

"I have a fantastic relationship with Bill, I've worked really, really well with him for many years," Ms Bennett said.

"I reckon I've got something to offer, I'm pretty excited about the opportunity."

Mr Bridges says he's the Generation X candidate who can bring refreshing change to the National Party as its deputy leader under Mr English.

The 40-year-old is the youngest front bench member.

Mr Bridges says he wants to be part of a leadership team that brings strength, stability and change to the party and believes he has the support to do so.

"I think while Bill English offers the strengths and stability, what I offer is the change and rejuvenation that I'm hearing from my colleagues but I think that also New Zealanders want to see, as effectively we have a new government," he said.

Mr Bridges also believes his caucus colleagues want a team which will continue with Mr Key's own approach to rejuvenation, including in the way he was plucked from obscurity on the back bench.

He's given little thought to whether he would continue his bid for deputy under Jonathan Coleman or Judith Collins, the other two cabinet ministers contesting the leadership.

"My view is that Bill English is going to win. That is the premise on which I base my candidacy, that I will be deputy to Bill English," he said.

In campaigning, Mr Bridges said his age, Maori heritage, West Auckland upbringing and being member for Tauranga mean he could offer a variety of things to the party as a deputy leader.

He said the nation's welfare system helped his family when they needed it while his state school education took him all the way to Oxford University.

Before entering parliament Mr Bridges was a Senior Crown Prosecutor in both the District and High Courts.

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