The former leader of the National party, Simon Bridges, is retiring from politics and will leave Parliament within weeks.

The surprise announcement this morning follows his decision to bow out of a direct contest against Christopher Luxon, who took the leadership from Judith Collins last November.

Bridges was given the plum finance and infrastructure portfolios, which he had sought.

In a statement ahead of a press conference at Parliament, Bridges gave no explanation beyond that “more important to me than being a politician or a businessman, I’m a partner to Natalie and dad to Emlyn, Harry, and Jemima”. 

“This week my oldest two children turn 10 and 8 years old, and I want to be able to give them the best of me.”

The family recently spent 10 days in self-isolation with omicron and Bridges missed a key event with Luxon earlier in the year when his son suffered a serious playground injury.

Bridges entered parliament in 2008 as the MP for Tauranga and served as a minister of energy and resource, transport, economic development, communications and associate minister of climate and finance in the governments of John Key and Bill English.

He said he would formally leave parliament “in the coming weeks” and appeared to suggest his decision may include a belief National’s leadership is now secure for an extended period of time, meaning he will not get another chance to lead the party, which he did after the 2017 election defeat.

He was deposed in 2020 by Todd Muller, whose tenure was short-lived and gave way to Judith Collins as leader.

“I love the National party and this year I will have been a proud member for 30 years," he said. "For the first time in a while, National is in a good place under Chris Luxon’s leadership with momentum heading into the next election.”

This story has been corrected to remove reference to Winston Peters holding the Tauranga seat before Simon Bridges. The seat had been held by Bob Clarkson.