Election 2020: National’s Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller on Judith Collins, victory and loss

What a strange and tumultuous year it has been for return Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller.

Muller was victorious with 16,929 votes in Saturday night’s election but at his camp, surrounded by blue balloons and faithful friends, family and supporters, he watched his party and colleagues implode under a landslide win for the Labour Party.

Muller was left feeling conflicted. He led with a margin of 3472 ahead of Labour list MP Angie Warren-Clark. However, Labour gained 41.3 per cent of the Bay of Plenty vote and National just 33.9 per cent.

Although humbled at the victory, Muller said losses in other electorates previously held by his friends and colleagues was “gutting”.

At Omanu Golf Club, it should have been a night of celebration, and it was to a degree. But Muller said it himself when he told supporters that things were not as high octane as he had hoped.

Still, he was grateful to reclaim the MP seat for Bay of Plenty and was heartened by the support that got him there. This will be Muller’s third term.

Muller succeeded in rolling Tauranga MP and former National leader Simon Bridges this year, then dramatically stepped down 53 days later, eventually opening up about his personal battles with mental health. He was replaced by leader Judith Collins, who on Saturday admitted defeat as a sombre blue crowd watched on from the golf club.

When asked whether the result could have been different if he stayed on as leader, or never scuppered Bridges from the role in the first place, Muller said he believed he did the right thing at the right time.

“I have no regrets. Life is too short for that.”

Muller, who spent his Sunday morning cooking breakfast and mowing the lawn, would not comment on whether he would pursue the leadership role again after the party’s defeat.

“The country has spoken very clearly around the type of politics and policies they want at this time. We need to reflect on that. The very last thing we should be doing is running to point fingers as to who could’ve done a better job, looking for recrimination.”

He paid tribute to leader Judith Collins who had done “a tremendous job under the circumstances”.

“I was watching her with great admiration with her resilience and work ethic that she’s brought to the last three months.”

Party politics aside, Muller said he was keen to focus on his MP role and doing right for the people who put him there.

What’s next?

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller will join the rest of the National Party in Wellington on Tuesday for their first caucus meeting. It will be his first return to Parliament since stepping down as leader.

It will be challenging from a personal perspective but also in reflection of Saturday night’s results, he said.

“It will be a very tough time. We will be saying ‘goodbye’ to many good people.”

However, he was looking forward to resuming the MP role.

Muller said he intends to pursue pushing for more Government support for better roading, schooling, after-hours health care and housing in the Bay.

“These are things our community needs. My job is to give voice to that as strongly as I possibly can. The other thing that’s really important is to just be somebody people feel they can trust and approach. And I will be.

“I have absolute focus in doing the best I can for the people of Bay of Plenty and the National Party for the next three years.”

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