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Guest post – Bridges is done, who can save National?

Written By: - Date published: 7:58 am, April 24th, 2020 - 115 comments
Categories: national, politicans, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags: ,

Guest post by Clint Smith who is a former Labour Party staffer and Ministerial Advisor who served during the 2011, 2014, and 2017 elections, and early contributor to The Standard. He now runs Victor Strategy and Communications.

I know what it’s like to be where National is now. Three elections in a row, I served as a staffer in the Leader of the Opposition’s office, and watched our dreams of victory turn to ash as the polls turned south in election year, just as they have for National during the COVID crisis.

Like the Labour leaders who couldn’t overcome John Key, Simon Bridges is simply unable to match it with Jacinda Ardern. Internal polls from both National and Labour show National is polling below 35%, with the Government parties over 60%.   

The best outcome in this situation is your leader falls on his sword and the party appoints a charismatic world class leader who sweeps you to victory.

Unfortunately, not every party has a Jacinda waiting in the wings.

So what does National do?

If you’re a National MP, you can tell yourself the polls will get better for your party: as the COVID crisis recedes and economic conditions worsen those voters will swing back to National. But there’s another scenario that I saw play out three times for Labour, and happened to National in 2002: the poll slump becomes self-reinforcing. Voters might write National off and begin to look to minor parties that could limit Labour’s power, or they just jump on the winning bandwagon. 

At the end of the day, an MP has to look at the polling in front on them, and on current numbers, the junior quarter to a third of National MPs face losing their seats in Parliament, and many senior MPs face losing their treasured electorates and going on the list.

If you’re a National MP and you don’t have a solid blue electorate, you’re feeling nervous right now. And you’re open to solutions.

Carrying on with Bridges isn’t going to work. He has consistently shown that, when the situation demands statesmanship, he delivers petty politics. He was unpopular before COVID. His outbursts during the crisis have only worsened his reputation.

But who would want to take the leadership now – with disastrously low polling against a Prime Minister who has guided the country through crisis?

Well, Jacinda Ardern did it and, actually, there’s no better time.

The COVID crisis has seen voters rally to the Government at National’s expense. Some of those voters will inevitably go back to National as the crisis wanes, and the economic impact builds. A new National leader would see themselves buoyed by this incoming tide, and would probably get an initial boost simply by dint of not being as unpopular as Bridges.

Any new leader will have a struggle to win the election against Jacinda Ardern at the height of her power, but expectations of winning will be low. So, if they’re seen to have at least saved their caucus mates’ jobs by lifting the vote from its current abysmal low, they will get to hold on to the leadership post-election and have another crack in 2023. If they don’t act now and let Bridges take the blame for defeat, they might face a wider pool of competitors for the leadership, including Chris Luxon, post-election.

The conditions for a leadership change are ripe – a caucus nervous for their jobs, polls at a probable nadir, and motivation for aspirants to act before the election.

But who?

It needs to be someone National’s caucus can stomach.

That rules out Judith Collins. She’s popular with the wider party and voters, and has a strong media brand but is not seen as a team player. There’s evidence to suggest she may even be the one driving the coup talk coming from inside National. If so, she’s destined to the fate of Peter Dutton – starting the spill but without the numbers to win. She could only muster a handful of caucus votes last time she tried for the leadership.

It also rules out Nikki Kaye who, while electable, is the most leftwing National MP and would need serious changes to National’s policy platform to be credible.

It needs to be someone who can take on Jacinda Ardern in terms of star power and with the ability to carve out a media niche.

That rules out the slew of nice and competent but rather dull men – Todd Muller, Mark Mitchell, Paul Goldsmith etc – who couldn’t light up a room if you put 10,000 volts through them.

Of the lot, Todd Muller is the most credible potential leader and he has economic credentials, which will need to be a big part of National’s message post-COVID. But he’s got low electability with no public profile to speak of, and is seen as a proponent of primary industry, rather than the new, sustainable economy.

This only really leaves Paula Bennett. Yeah, she’s got a lot of baggage – and I mean a lot of baggage. But she also has popularity within her caucus and the public. She’s liberal but not overly so. She’s got a big brand, a working-class backstory, and name recognition already. And she knows how to make a splash.

She’s got economic experience as former Associate Finance Minister, which could be bolstered by having Goldsmith or Muller as her Deputy.

With her flashy style and tendency to go too over the top, she may not be anyone’s first choice, but Paula Bennett could be the compromise most National MPs can back.

Bennett has been positioning herself for this moment for some time. As Bridges has stumbled, she’s been softening her public image: cutting back on the cutting remarks (no more ‘zip it, sweetie’), dropping arrogance for a more humble and friendly persona, and appearing in the women’s magazines over summer. She’s been appointed National’s campaign manager, so she’s already at the centre of election planning.

Now could be the moment Paula Bennett has been preparing for. There won’t be a better chance to save National from the Bridges disaster, give it a fighting chance at the election, and secure the leadership for the next term. 

115 comments on “Guest post – Bridges is done, who can save National? ”

  1. Ad 1

    Hang in there Simon the country needs you right where you are.

  2. weka 2

    "baggage – and I mean a lot of baggage"

    what do you think the MSM will do with that?

  3. pat 3

    Lost all credibility when he started touting Paula's economic abilities

    • mickysavage 3.1

      He clearly is not. He is saying that for National Party purposes Bennett can point out she has had economic experience. This post is about an internal popularity contest within National not on who would make a good PM.

      • pat 3.1.1

        Internal popularity with the other eye on public perception….if youre looking to hold on to your seat internal popularity is not the measure

        • mickysavage

          The current talent pool is rather shallow … Bennett must be up there in terms of likely Bridge replacements.

          • pat

            Agree talent pool is very shallow (at least in terms of public recognition) but would suggest Bennet would attract even less support for National than Collins (and thats saying something)…whomever has the job come election time has to be ready to take one for the team or be ready to wait 3 years to have a real shot at the job….and that precludes an awful lot of the candidates…Bridges likely to remain by default.

            • Chris

              I would've thought they'd go with Collins because it'll deal with her leadership obsession, while at the same time test the public's response toward her which is difficult to judge – it could go either way, in the short term anyway – and keeps Luxon's powder dry. But I guess caucus being unable to stomach her trumps all of that, which doesn't matter too much because thankfully Bennett's well capable of doing just as good a job as Bridges.

              • Michael

                "Bennett's well capable of doing just as good a job as Bridges." Damned with faint praise. I think she'd be even worse than Bridges: she's far more stupid, for one thing.

                • Chris

                  It ain't faint praise. I think you're giving Bridges too much credit. I meant as doing just as good a job of stuffing things up.

            • Chris

              That piece from Graham Adams is marvellous. Please make it Paula:

              "Being the bogans’ darling in leopard-skin prints who’s tough on beneficiaries obviously holds a certain appeal to her Upper Harbour electorate, but not knowing the details of your portfolios is pretty limiting for an ambitious, high-flying politician."

              "…someone should encourage her to stop the endless humble-bragging. In an interview shortly after being voted in as Deputy Prime Minister in December she said: “When I was a 17-year-old solo mum holding a baby, I never thought I would be here [in Parliament], let alone deputy Prime Minister.”

              "This month, she praised New Zealand as a country that would give people second chances. “New Zealand is so remarkable — it gives people second chances. How else can someone like me who was a single mother at 17, dream of being the Deputy Prime Minister of the country?”

              "Bennett humblebrags so often I expect her at some point to break into song and a tap-dance routine: “Golly gosh! Who would have thought little old me would be so successful?”. But if she is genuinely surprised at her own rise, she’s not alone. Honestly, so are we, and her own professions of wonderment at her advancement only pour fuel onto everyone else’s — especially given her woeful performance in the social housing portfolio, which has helped give New Zealand the worst homelessness figures in the OECD."

  4. Blazer 4

    'She’s got economic experience as former Associate Finance Minister,'

    You're forgetting about her experience as the Minister for Climate Change,that is more relevant.

    She will attract votes from the …Greens.laugh

    • Anne 4.1

      Bennett’s knowledge of CC was zero. Her promotion to minister was a measure of the Nat govt's disinterest in the subject. After all, it didn't make money so why bother about it. I would think half the National caucus at least were still deniers at that time.

  5. RosieLee 5

    This is one of the least credible and most laughable posts I have ever seen on TS.

    • mickysavage 5.1

      Que? Reread it. It is not extolling Bennett’s abilities it is commenting on how it is likely she is positioning herself for the job.

    • weka 5.2

      My suggestion is to reread it with micky's comments in mind and taking into account that this is political analysis of how political party's manage leadership issues. If you think there is something off about the analysis, then make your case. Taking no content potshots at posts isn't what we're here for.

  6. Nick 6

    So, you're saying Bennett is honing her lying skills and improving her bullshit mask so she can win an election. Of course then after winning, will freely ditch her fake persona and re-emerge as the cold evil bitch she really is. You media manipulating communication guys get it all worked out in advance. What a shitty outcome for us all if Bennett sleazes her way in.

    Thank God Jacinda kept herself from being too corrupted and remains a human.

    Unlike Key, Bennett, Bridges, Collins etc, who are just those little shit fish that flit around the mouths and eat the scraps from big whales.

    • weka 6.1

      "What a shitty outcome for us all if Bennett sleazes her way in."

      As opposed to who? National have to have a leader.

      • Wensleydale 6.1.1

        True. And at this point, you could draw a smiley face on a watermelon and it'd be more popular than Bridges.

      • OnceWasTim 6.1.2

        Could happen @ Weks.

        Not that we get in the say in the matter of who is the next leader of the gNats, but if she does sleeze her way in (a distinct poss), and given that I'm relatively confident of legitimate erections thus far – lil ' ole Nu Zull that punches above its weight will get the representation it deserves.

        If we ever went to electronic voting, or postal voting – all bets are off, OR if various other bits happens – the risks of which I think JA is probably aware of.

        And not someone given to hero worship – no matter their politics or various persuasions – que ser bloody ra sera.

        It may be, and probably is that we'll have to see things get a bit worse before they get better, and unfortunately a big reason is that what we now know as the 'collective left" aren't able to get their shit together.

        That is of course unless Labour and its detergent partners agree to be kind and transformational – both with themselves and those they are purporting to represent.

  7. Muttonbird 7

    Paula Bennett is in fact a very nasty person. There's dishonest calculation in the softening of her image by doing the dozen or so magazine covers in the last 12 months.

    If she's the answer, what was the question?

    Not a bad strategy piece by the author though, egging her on to inevitable destruction.

    • tc 7.1

      The question was probably ' Do we have plan B?' from hollow man central to which the reply came ' Paula, we've had her in the softener…'.

      You can guess as to the responses, a mix of 'noooo' right through to 'wtf not, they're both toast after this election anyway.'

    • Chris 7.2

      Yes, Bennett as leader of the nats is good for the left in the same way Collins would've been and as good as Bridges has been. The telling flaws in those of their ilk often aren't obvious to most until they become leader. Up until then the public are duped into thinking "I really want to hand it to Paula, she's worked hard all her life and I really admire that". Same with Collins and her ridiculous 'toughness', but if either of them became leader the flaws would show up. With Collins it's her inability to stay in control on her feet and her inevitable sink into nasty and un-thought-out loose-cannon remarks that expose her true self. The public's caught on to what makes Bridges' tick and the same will happen to Bennett and Collins once the spotlight's on them.

      • Muttonbird 7.2.1

        Bridges has had long enough to unlearn his mistake but still hasn't changed. Safe to say he either won't or can't.

        The public have seen enough even if Chris Trotter thinks there's life there still.

  8. xanthe 8

    Its a bait and switch move I am wagering that they intend Mark Mitchell for the job. drop him in at the last moment before general public realize just how horrible he is

    • Peter 8.1

      The general public should realize just how horrible he is but also realiz4 that he clearly doesn't have that on his own in that sad bunch. Of Bennett my old mum would say "She's a really nasty piece of work that one." And she'd be right.

      The irony is that with the women' magazines down the tubes Bennett can't go on a full charm offensive. She'll simply have to rely on, well, being offensive.

  9. Robert Guyton 9

    This post says exactly what I've been saying and thinking for a long time now. Bennett has been entirely focused on this and will not be sidelined. Her preparations, described well by Clint, have been endorsed all along by the National Party "mechanics".

    • I've been thinking the same. Can't come up with any other explanation for her unlikely transformation from Westie bogan to blue-rinse conservative.

      • Sacha 9.1.1

        That deliberate transformation in style makes her way more acceptable to the coifed matrons who are a power bloc inside the party machinery.

        If the Nat caucus is only looking for someone better than hapless Simon to carry them through until 2021, she may have the votes. Does anyone recall who is in her faction?

      • Chris 9.1.2

        And her minders have kept her out of the limelight for a while now no doubt to reduce the chances of her stuffing things up.

    • Anne 9.2


      What hasn't been mentioned is that she will be packaged by the Nats as their answer to Jacinda Ardern – good appearance, dresses well (too flamboyant for me) nice smile and well practiced in the art of touchy-feely communication – yes we know its genuine with Jacinda but Paula can turn it on when needed. Many people will not appreciate the difference and their strategists will be right.

      It will save them from a massive defeat at election time and next year or the year afterward, Luxon will be ready to take over and do a John Key.

      Always a good idea to put yourself in the place of your opponent/opponents and figure out what they are thinking.

      • Louis 9.2.1

        "next year or the year afterward, Luxon will be ready to take over and do a John Key"

        That appears to be the plan.

        • taxicab

          Since Key crawled out of his crypt a day or two ago to extol the virtues of Luxon in the face of Bridges self destructing https://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=12326839 I think the game plan is badger the govt , with the help of Winston to push the election out to next year by which time Jamie-lee Ross may well be convicted and will be expelled from Parliament giving enough time for a by-election so no surprises as to who the Nat candidate is yes Luxon and bingo instant new fast tracked leader to take on Jacinda no need to wait until 2023 so they need to put Bridges on life support for the duration or find a temporary mug to take the hits in the meantime . They are shrewder than shithouse rats we must hope Jamie-lee Ross avoids the conviction .

          • observer

            That's not a game plan, it's a fantasy.

            There is zero chance of the election being pushed out to next year, because Labour would have to vote for it (75% majority in Parliament). Of course they won't.

            There is no political reason whatsoever to delay the election. (A public health reason might exist in September or November, but then we might be hit by an asteroid).

          • Cinny

            Election won't get pushed out till next year, they'll keep the Sept date unless the virus really takes off again.

            Will be watching JLR's seat with great interest.

          • Graeme

            There's also the possibility that Ross takes the whole ship down with him. He may be convicted, but the stinking mess could be smeared all over the remains of the National Party.

            Slapping a new face on the old ship probably wouldn't do it in those circumstances. A pretty substantial rebuild of the party would be needed to restore the trust of the electorate if the rot is shown to be throughout the party, or at least through the upper levels.

            This could explain Bridges' recent attempts to commit political suicide by making a complete dick of himself, he wants to be removed form politics so he doesn't have to wear the rap for what went on with the donations. But stress can make someone fuck up in spectacular ways as well.

            • weka

              there's also the issue of the capture of National by the neolibs, similar in some ways to what happened to Labour in the 80s and how that affected them post-Clark. So a rebuild, but also coming to terms with the big cultural change of the last few decades.

              The Dirty Politics crew, and people currently trying to run Trumpian politics, have had a big influence but I wonder how many NZers are actually supportive of what they are doing beyond just a general desire for right wing economics. Now that it's crunch time with covid, it may be that people want more a more socially cohesive right wing party than National can offer.

              • Graeme

                Going from the small sample of National voters I work with on the farm they aren't doing very well at all.

                These are two young guys, manager in his 30's and tractor driver in 20's, both from multi-generational National voting farming families. They are not impressed with National and it's leadership and are unlikely to vote for them until there's major changes. I gather that goes for family and friends as well.

                Honesty, integrity and compassion are core conservative family values. Tearing everything down to try and make yourself look better are not.

                I think some changes might be coming, and 35% could be very optimistic.

                • weka

                  I for one would welcome the return of old school conservative politics on the right.

                  Are they saying who they will vote for instead? Or will they not vote at all?

                  • Graeme

                    Possibility they will vote Labour, or not vote. Very good chance of 'reward votes' for Labour's exemplary handling of the crisis though.

                    These guys are pretty blue though, manager didn't talk to me socially for a couple of months after it fell out that I was a Labour member, he's got over it now though.

                    Regen-ag is being talked about too, manager is developing plans on how it would work on the station. Not sure whether that's come down from the owners, who have a pretty good handle on sustainability for property developers, or up through the farm focus groups, think it's a bit of both. Farmers are always looking for a better, or more profitable way of doing things.

                    • Michael

                      Useful intel there. FWIK, it's very hard to get died-in-the-wool Nats to change their vote. Some older ones will vote for Winston (because he's like a pre-1984 Nats, to them) but I don't know any who will admit to voting Labour. None of them will vote Green. Only some of the young Nat voters who attend University are amenable to persuasion and that depends on who's doing the persuading (David Clark utterly hopeless at Otago).

  10. John G 10

    That's a well written and thought out post. However I think Bennet would be a disaster for the Nats. Put up against Ardern she would accentuate Ardern's abilities even more.

    • Treetop 10.1

      I was just thinking this as well.

    • Wensleydale 10.2

      Probably the only person who could 'out-nice' Jacinda Ardern is Suzy Cato. Last I checked she didn't have any political aspirations. Paula 'Bride of Frankenstein' Bennett is irredeemably awful, ambitious and an opportunist, which is probably why she's managed to climb so high (or perhaps stoop so low) within National Party ranks.

      • Michael 10.2.1

        Nice people (or even half-decent human beings) do not rise to the top of the National Party. However, many New Zealanders happily vote for arseholes, the more unpleasant the better. Suspect trump would do well here.

  11. Barfly 11

    Well….. to paraphrase

    A pox on all their houses

    • bill 11.1

      If I'm reading you correctly, then I wholeheartedly agree.

      The entire political system is geared to have us merely elect a new captain to the bridge of the Titanic or some such. On the whole blue team, green team, red team front – they have all steered us into the path of calamity with their nonsense.

      All of them are in the business of pretend and extend, and so if that's your bag then sure, have a Jacinda, or a Paula, or a James – I'm sure the nth degree of incremental difference between their respective prescriptive trajectories will make for a world of difference some way down their shared track.

      • patricia 11.1.1

        Bill and Barfly, to say Jacinda is "pretending" is unkind. She is genuine. You may not believe in her politics, but as a person she is sound. She also lives her values, unlike some self important people.
        Paula has always looked after Paula, and when questioned can become personal and vindictive. That is not what NZ needs.
        This whole covid strategy has relied mainly on trust. Jacinda trusted us and we trusted her. Could you imagine Paula in that position? Or Luxton? or Mark Mitchell? et al. ?????

        • bill

          Jacinda is very good at what she does and has excelled of late.

          But my point has nothing to do with personalities or how adept individuals are at selling messages. My point is the simple one of politics being narrowly bound by the strictures of capitalism, and the pretense coming from all political parties that we can somehow carry on with capitalism in some form or other and not run full tilt into the effects of global warming.

          It's not crazy to suggest that two possible and mutually exclusive futures are post capitalist and post human.

          • In Vino

            I'd prefer post-captalist.. But I am not all that optimistic.

            • Michael

              Same here. The pandemic poses a once-in-a-century opportunity for New Zealanders to change the way their world functions (government, economy, society). If we don't take that opportunity to reshape that world so that it functions more fairly, and less destructively, than the one that existed before 25 march 2020, we have only ourselves to blame. Our political enemies (that is what the Right represents) will not miss any opportunity to create the world they want – and it will be a miserable world for most of us and our descendants (it will be miserable for a lot of them too, but I'm less concerned for their wellbeing than I am for people who are not right-wingers).

      • left_forward 11.1.2

        I wholeheartedly agree with patricia, bill – in my view it would take an extraordinary degree of cynicism to say that the differences between these three are divided by an 'n'th degree. I suppose it's all 'n' the eye of the beholder – but I have a whole lot of reasons to respect Jacinda and have every reason to do so for James too.

        • bill

          And again, it's the narrowly defined politics that political leaders and their respective parties promote and represent that I was referring to – not anyone's personality traits.

          • left_forward

            Kia ora.
            I guess they simply reflect a lack of imagination in mainstream NZ. Having confidence in a vision of and promoting an alternative to capitalism requires a degree of ‘stepping-out there’ which is never going to explicitly come from a political party that depends on the mainstream to survive.
            This will only come from a cohesive message originating in the fringes.

      • observer 11.1.3

        Obviously you aren't reading Barfly correctly.

        The National Party houses.

  12. Old slippery, Teflon John has got it all sorted.

    No worries.

  13. Steve 13

    Problem that anyone looking to roll Bridges prior to the election has is that the script from above has him losing it and Luxon rolling him a few months after then winning the 2023 election. Are any of the current lot really going to want to be the leader this election if the outlook is that bad and they’d effectively be bench warming a la Brash?

    • Blazer 13.1

      Bennett would cherish being leader even for a week.

    • McFlock 13.2

      Ah, but yes.
      1: it goes on your CV for directorships on overseas-owned NZ companies

      2: I reckon more than a couple of them think they have the ability and popular support to actually win the thing.

      3: the optimists will be thinking Lab's peaked too soon and fickle voters will run to tory.

  14. Dean Reynolds 14

    As I've said before, neo liberalism's shitty, me- first philosophy has hollowed out the National party, so that all you've got left, is a collection of vile, unelectable wanna be's.

    • Michael 14.1

      Neoliberalism has had a dire effect on Labour too. I'm not sure if it can rise to the challenges before it but I am almost certain that no other political institution in Aotearoa has a hope.

  15. Gabby 15

    A fair chunk of the electorate likes a bully, as long as they're not in the firing line, so barring any unfortunate leaks from WINZ or tales from former flatmates, Puller would have some pull.

    • Michael 15.1

      Exactly. Many more people will now become dependent on the state, via WINZ and other outfits. To say these institutions are incapable of meeting their needs fairly and compassionately is an understatement. Making sure they are capable, or not, will determine the Labour party's future.

  16. woodart 16

    dont know why the natz dont go straight for the yen and make the chinese spy teacher the leader. be the honorable(lol) thing to do.

  17. Treetop 17

    No one can save National. The person with the most caucus votes will become the new National leader.

    All National can do is try to prevent Labour from governing without a coalition partner.

    Whether National remove Bridges quickly or slowly is to be determined. So far it has been slow and the reason for this would be an internal matter and not a public one.

    Bridges is having an awful week. When over thrown or he jumps happens he might feel relief.

  18. Enough is Enough 18

    The return of Steve Pierson.

    Why don't you come back on a full time basis Clint. The Standard would be a lot better with your contributions. You are on twitter all day so go on, you know you want to.

  19. lprent 19

    On the same briar patch issue for National.

    Chris Trotter at Bowalley Road has "Deposing Simon Bridges Would Be A Mistake."

    BTW: Nice post Clint – that is a tidy and clear analysis of the issue that faces National – especially

    At the end of the day, an MP has to look at the polling in front on them, and on current numbers, the junior quarter to a third of National MPs face losing their seats in Parliament, and many senior MPs face losing their treasured electorates and going on the list.

    If you’re a National MP and you don’t have a solid blue electorate, you’re feeling nervous right now. And you’re open to solutions.

    There has been some speculation about if the National party MPs have been seeing the internal polling. Most recently by Jane Patterson in "Simon Bridges' leadership questioned after missteps". (my italics)

    While this has all reignited grumbles among MPs, there have been ongoing niggles including the view caucus business is controlled by a very tight team around Bridges. MPs say that includes detailed information around internal polling, which even on the party vote hasn't been made freely available in the last month or so.

    If correct then that could tactically be foolish – it provides a torch issue for disgruntled MPs to coalalese (?sp) around.

    In the other hand No active challenge yet but if MPs decide to move it could happen quickly – Bridges is helped by the fact MPs are in lockdown around the country rather than being able to congregate at Parliament; the longer the full caucus is unable to return to the capital, the better for him.

    About half of National's MPs could be back when Parliament resumes next week but it will some time before they're all back.

    As I remember Nationals procedures, it only requires MPs to change the leadership. In which case looking at when their MPs return will be interesting eh..

    • Sacha 19.1

      So Hooters et al may be mainly leaking internal Nat polling to inform caucus factions rather than the public?

      • lprent 19.1.1

        That would be my guess – whoever slipped him the numbers would have almost certainly have wanted him to do so. Matthew isn’t known for holding back on publishing juicy data.

        • Incognito

          If these data are so safely guarded then that would narrow down the leaker, wouldn’t it? Does Curia do all the internal polling for National?

        • Michael

          Suspect this is true. Hooton (or his clients) have given up on Bridges and don't want to be locked out of power (and spoils) for another 3 years. So they're trying to bring matters to a head and create a spill. I don't think it will work for them, regardless of whether Bridges stays or goes: Labour must lose the election before the Nats can win power again.

  20. John Chapman 20

    Leave Simon in place to fight an election that will almost certainly now be lost, accept his inevitable resignation and install Luxon. It isn't hat hard really. The real question is the country ready to go back to what National has to offer even in three years post COVID.

    • ianmac 20.1

      Would the Nat Caucus accept Luxton as a newbie that easily? Luxton does belong to one of those fundamentalist little churches and is anti abortion and firmly believes in the Coming to solve all our problems.

      • Wensleydale 20.1.1

        He'll need those nice men from Crosby-Textor to instruct him on how to keep a lid on his more insane utterances.

      • Gabby 20.1.2

        Luxie had a lovely opportunity this week to comment one way or another on the Air NZ refund business. Maybe I missed his valuable insights.

    • New view 20.2

      The question will be not what National has to offer but what labour coalition has to offer when they most likely win a close election. I say close because although many people vote for the leader, just as many vote for policy and economic outcome. Leaders are mouth pieces that are supposed to look good and say the right things. That’s all they do. JA couldn’t write the budget or build more houses. Isn’t her job. Some people actually think about the economy and the difficulties ahead and will question the coalitions every move. There are dark times ahead for who ever wins the election. When a country has massive debt and unemployment the government of the day will be in no position to implement all the nice reforms everyone would like and stay popular. Beware what you wish for.

      • observer 20.2.1

        " Leaders are mouth pieces that are supposed to look good and say the right things. That’s all they do."

        That is simply not true. Do you think that described Helen Clark?

        • New view

          Helen Clark was a powerful leader who could influence policy but she didn’t write it. She might have been able to influence how it was written and she had to pick a cabinet that was capable of implementing that policy. Has JA been good enough to do that and has she had enough talent around her to implement it. Mmm. The results of the last three years tends to tell a different story. This Government started its tenure in good nick economically . That’s gone. The good will will won’t last long. Bridges will have nothing to do with it unless he’s there if National win. That will be unlikely.

  21. observer 21

    This post is a bit "Game of Thrones" – very good script, intriguing characters, engaging plot … but then ruined by the ending!

    Seriously, the first three-quarters of Clint's post is good analysis, and quite fair, not just partisan. I certainly haven't forgotten Labour's pain in opposition (and I was just a voter, not insider).

    But Paula can't be the answer. For one thing, she doesn't represent change in voters' minds. A new leader has to distance him/herself from Bridges. That's easy when you've got 2 years to prepare (think Key dumping a lot of Brash baggage before the 2008 election). But not now.

    Yes, Ardern took it on very late, but she was not well known to the general public. She seemed new, fresh. Paula is all too familiar.

    • Sacha 21.1

      The Nats will not be pitching change – rather a return to the pre-2017 status quo as if Ardern and Covid had never existed. Bennett is one of their only MPs with public recognition.

      • observer 21.1.1

        I mean change from the current leadership. She can't say "Simon was wrong". The new leader needs to.

        • Sacha

          She can say 'John and Bill were right when I served them'. Simon will be wiped from the conversation, they hope.

      • Chris 21.1.2

        Hope so. Best scenario is Bridges stays, and if they have to change Bennett's just as capable of convincing the public she's an idiot. That leaves loose cannon Collins to stuff things up for them later on. We don't want Collins used up just yet. That'd be an unnecessarily wasteful use of resources.

    • McFlock 21.2

      That's the big thing. Ardern completely changed Labour's energy and approach to the election, and was a strong contrast to blinglish. But Labour's policy platform was also pretty good, it just wasn't being communicated strongly.

      Bennett might have a bit more bounce than Bridges, but she's still old hat, and national party policy is still unimaginative. And if they get a few percent from the leadership change, they'll be sucking much ot it from ACT anyway. They still have no friends.

  22. observer 22

    "There won’t be a better chance to save National from the Bridges disaster, give it a fighting chance at the election, and secure the leadership for the next term."

    The last part of Clint's conclusion raises a tricky point: will the party stick with a leader who still loses, but not as badly as feared? And if not, will the deposed leader stick around in caucus, with a decent job?

    Bill English (after 2002) and Andrew Little are rare exceptions. The usual practice is for an ex-leader to quit Parliament quickly. If you were an ambitious National MP today, would you want to risk your entire political future on an election you expect to lose?

    I suspect this is at the back (front?) of mind for the likes of Mitchell and Muller. Better to be a Minister in 2023 than out of Parliament in 2021.

  23. Anne 23

    But Labour's policy platform was also pretty good, it just wasn't being communicated strongly.

    Imo, that has always been a weakness in Labour. They have improved since Jacinda Ardern took over but that is due to her brilliant communication skills.

    Back in the day, I recall feeling so frustrated when watching political interviews – especially around election time. One knew how a Labour politician should answer a question thrown at them, but they rarely obliged. Instead you would get a convoluted answer that had people tuned out well before they had finished.

    Maybe it was lack of funds and therefore unable to hire the best communicators to assist them.

    Edit: there were of course exceptions to the rule. Helen Clark was one of them.

  24. Chris T 25

    What number of article are we up to of the imminent sacking of Bridges again?

    You lose count after this many years of them.

    No one is going to even want the job atm going into the election, after this.

    Ardern, after the monopoly coverage from covid, unless she does something so odd it kills people, and even then it is pushing it, will waltz it, and Bridges will walk.

  25. Byd0nz 26

    This post registers 0 on the

    Who gives a fuckOmeter

    • Andre 26.1

      The needle flickered enough for you to comment on it.

      • Incognito 26.1.1

        That comment wasn’t worth responding to. It had zero substance and was particularly rude too given this is a Guest Post. The stats for the Post are very good. If they keep trolling here like this, they’ll face the consequences.

  26. Rae 27

    Scratching my head at the headline till I realised it should have read "Why Save National?"

  27. Corey Humm 28

    Now I see why we went through five leaders in six years. If the polls are bad roll em. Roll em roll em. Bugger new ideas and team unity roll em roll em get a new shiny leader to offer the same plastic uninspired crap and roll em if it doesn't work. You talk about seeing the polls drop on election year? Does that mean you think we were doing well on non election years? In what universe? At what point in 9 years of opposition was labour ever out polling National prior to August 2017? We lost every poll for a decade and a good poll was when we cracked 30% only under the first few months of cunliffes tenure did we get near 37%, which Jacinda herself couldn't even crack, for 9 years Labour was an un-unified abysmally polling mess that had no real ideas and seemed right up until August 2017 to either be delusional abouto chances getting into government or think "a well bugger they'll get sick of National eventually" I don’t think National will take the advice of the staffer of a party lost the popular vote, four elections in a row and it’s only answer was roll the leader. Which is your advice here 😂

    May I remind everyone that just a couple of months after peak Jacinda last year, Labour was losing polls and at end of last year and up until this February labour looked like absolute dog tucker, that National has been forensic in it's ability to make people feel like Labour have achieved bugger all and once again despite all the hate Simon gets national was able to out poll Labour pretty quickly last year and in a couple of months the same thing probably will happen again but once labours counting it's chickens before it hatches.

    Underestimate National and Simon at your own risk, labour underestimated Key for ten years. I wanna second labour term govt but Jacindas popularity is cyclical and seems to fan out after emergencies have passed, she is not now nor has she ever been as popular a figure as that reprehensible slime bag John Key , so if peak Jacinda is a 50/50 chance of a second term where we might even win the the popular vote for the first time in fifteen years (maybe) is not super duper impressive.

  28. Cinny 29

    The nats have just released an ANZAC day advert on social media.

    There is only one person in it who is not an MP… you guessed it… luxon.

    Why would that be… ?

    • Ad 29.1

      He's their best Auckland bundler other than Peter Goodfellow himself.

      • Cinny 29.1.1

        It would be mighty funny if it didn't work out, stranger things have happened.

        Taxicab.. jlr and co are back in court June 10

    • taxicab 29.2

      see above . Does anyone know when the court hearings commence ?

  29. Ken 30

    Bring on Paula.

    I can't wait.

  30. Foreign waka 31

    It will be difficult for National to get a profile and common direction not driven by egos and the look at me brigade.

    I think Simon O'Connor and Amy Adams would be a good choice. Pragmatic, knowledgeable and level headed. They could, if all of the party pulls together be in the race. Just my 5 cents…..

    • Cinny 31.1

      Amy isn't seeking re-election

      simon o'connor is bridges brother in law


      • Foreign waka 31.1.1

        NZ is a 2 degree country. You will find that you cross paths with so many people over and over again during your professional career. These two are currently the only candidates within National with credentials and ability to lead. Very unfortunate that Amy is not seeking re-election. Very capable and a fantastic mind.

  31. Lettuce 32

    The same Simon O'Connor who was formerly a Catholic priest and whose beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriage would make a happy-clapper like Luxon seem positively new age? Yeah, he'd go down a real treat.

  32. Incognito 33

    Nice Post!

    PB has reinvented herself at least once and she’s a bit of a political chameleon. Being Simon’s Deputy may give her some support or it could work against her but to too hard for me to say.

    If she did become Leader she’ll go for a win, i.e. put National in a position (poll position?) to form a coalition. If National loses, but with some pride intact, I doubt she’d be stepping aside for the soapy guy who smells of roses.

    Lastly, don’t underestimate PB.

    • Chris 33.1

      I don't under-estimate bennett's ability to pull the wool over people's eye's before an election. But she doesn't have the smarts to keep doing it if she were elected.

      • Incognito 33.1.1

        You know the saying about fooling all people all the time? Key could do it, for nine long years, and he still manages to fool some people.

        • Chris

          I know what you're saying and key was the first person I thought of when I read your comment, but we're talking about paula bennett here. She ain't no key, and key left because he saw people were waking up. bennett might have a low cunning, but nothing more.

          • Incognito

            PB did well under Key and English and became Deputy Leader under Bridges and she’s now ranked #2 and the Campaign Leader. Key’s never really left, has he, but PB is still there, prominently? I think we haven’t seen all yet from PB.

            I’m not trying to talk up PB, far from it, put I’m trying to see it in a different perspective and in line with the OP.

            • weka

              A lot can be done with the right PR too. Bridges either has idiots advising him or he's not listening to them. Bennett is smarter than that.

            • Chris

              Yes, I can see how that conclusion can be reached. A lot of people see her as capable, hard-working, clever and even sharp. And I could easily be wrong about her. But it's also apparent, at least to me which means nothing, that how she does come across is wholly superficial. She gets away with a lot with her low cunning but when she's really pressed there's nothing there. Bridges is the same. That famous interview with John Campbell in 2013 when he was environment minister is a good example. If Bennett was PM or even leader of the nats it wouldn't be long before the general public would see she was out of her depth. Maybe she could surprise? I don't know. I just see her as too nasty, too vain and just not bright enough and when her true nature is exposed to more people via a leadership role she'd be toast. It'd be interesting running a predictions book. It's a shame ipredict isn't operating anymore.

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