Election 2020

Nikki Kaye, Amy Adams to leave politics after Muller saga

The blows keep coming for the National Party, with Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams announcing their retirement after serving as second- and third-in-command during Todd Muller's short-lived reign atop the party

Senior National MPs Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams have announced they will leave Parliament at the election, following Todd Muller's departure as party leader and Judith Collins' election as his replacement.

In a statement on Thursday morning, Kaye - who served as deputy to Muller - said she had told Collins of her decision on Wednesday after offering her support to the new leader.

"While Judith made it clear to me that I would be part of her senior leadership team and education spokesperson, I am ready to retire.

"I believe Judith is absolutely the right leader for the party at this time and I will be supporting Judith and the Party to win this election. New Zealand needs National."

Adams offered similarly full-throated support for Collins in her statement.

"With Todd Muller’s decision to resign the leadership the most important issue for our party was to get a strong and effective leadership team in place without delay and I am proud at the way in which the caucus managed this.  I am in no doubt that in Judith Collins we have the right leader for the challenges ahead and Judith and the team have my full support," she said.

In a statement, Collins thanked the two outgoing MPs for their work for National.

"Nikki and Amy have both made incredible contributions at very senior levels with consistent dedication to their work and to their constituencies. I thank them for everything they have done for the National Party and New Zealand politics over the years, and I wish them the very best for the future."

Kaye served as deputy leader during Muller's 53-day stint atop National, and faced some criticism for her role in his slip-ups and shortcomings as leader.

In his first week, the Auckland Central MP inadvertently exacerbated concerns about the lack of diversity on National's front bench by incorrectly claiming that finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith was Māori.

And in the final week of Muller's leadership, some questioned whether his tepid response to Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker breaching the privacy of Covid-19 patients, and health spokesman Michael Woodhouse staying silent about receiving similarly confidential data, was due to Kaye's ties to former National Party president Michelle Boag - the source of the information.

Adams - a four-term MP and former Minister of Justice and Minister for Social Housing - had previously announced an intent to retire, but had been brought back into the fold after Muller and Kaye rolled Simon Bridges. The Selwyn MP was put in charge of coordinating National's policy response to the economic downturn.

"As I said at that time I decided to stay because with the scale of challenges the country was facing, I saw being able to contribute in this way as an honour and a role I could not turn down."

Adams did not make clear what had changed, beyond the end of Muller's reign, to change her mind about staying on.

In an allusion to the problems during Muller's leadership, Kaye said: “While I don’t think it was possible to predict the events that have occurred, what I have learned from breast cancer and other life events is you can’t always predict what is around the corner.

"I have huge respect and admiration for Todd, Michelle and their family as they work through this difficult time. I hope that people continue to show compassion for Todd."

She said it was a privilege to have served as Auckland Central's MP for almost 12 years, while citing her work as Education Minister - and in particular, investments in school infrastructure and progressing digital fluency - as among the highlights of her ministerial career.

“I will never forget the compassion showed to me by the people of New Zealand when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am grateful for all the opportunities the National Party and our great country has provided me."

Kaye's decision further complicates Collins' first reshuffle as leader, set to be announced on Thursday morning, while the party will also need to find a new candidate for her Auckland Central seat in what has now become an unexpectedly difficult battle to retain it.

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