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Bennett set to be deputy PM, Bridges out

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/12/2016

Paula Bennett. © Getty Images Paula Bennett. Paula Bennett is promising to listen to new ideas from the National Party caucus as she prepares to be Bill English's deputy.

Simon Bridges withdrew from the race to be deputy on Saturday and Mr English earlier saw off two rivals to be leader in the wake of John Key's shock decision to stand aside as prime minister and National's leader.

The National caucus will meet on Monday morning to vote in Mr English and Mrs Bennett as leader and deputy respectively.

Mr Key will formally tender his resignation to the Governor-General at which stage Mr English will be sworn in as prime minister.

Mrs Bennett, 47, reflected that when she was a 17-year-old solo mum she hadn't expected to become National's first woman deputy prime minister.

Mr Key's decision to step aside, announced last Monday, was "for some of us the political shock of our careers", she said.

There had been a good contest of ideas during a roller coaster of a week in politics since.

She said the new leadership combination had the "Auckland from me" and the "southern from him". Mr English comes from Southland where he grew up on a farm.

"I've worked very closely with Bill English in the welfare portfolio and more recently in housing and associate finance. We have a really good working relationship," she says.

She said there needed to be a refresh but declined to speculate on cabinet roles for herself or others.

There would be an improvement in "how we work internally" with more ideas from caucus feeding into policy ahead of next year's election.

"Things will be a bit different, so they should be," she said.

Simon Bridges © Getty Simon Bridges Mr Bridges, 40, said he had support of a third of the caucus, but didn't have enough to get over the line.

"In Paula Bennett we have a fantastic deputy leader of the National Party and the government.

"She is a massive talent, she has huge strengths," Mr Bridges said.

Mrs Bennett, currently the No.5-ranked minister in cabinet, holds the social housing, state services and local government portfolios.

The other contenders for the leadership role, Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman, withdrew on Thursday.

"We will go into the election refreshed, with new ideas from our talented caucus and ready for another term in office," Mrs Bennett says.

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