Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, August 18th, 2018 - 44 comments
Categories: articles, Media, national, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, trevor mallard, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: tova o'brien, tracy watkins
Tracy Watkins at Stuff has provided an interesting review on Simon Bridges’ handling of the leaked information about his travel and work expenses.
It has been a weird story to dominate politics this week and you have to wonder about National’s handling of it.
I have written a couple of posts on this issue, not so much because I was so appalled at the spend, it is no different to lots of troughing that goes on every day. But I could not believe at how much effort was put into an attempt to divert attention away from the story. I mean blaming Labour for the leak without proof and then having one of the right’s spokespeople claim that Tova O’Brien was a closet leftie and out to destroy Bridges was pretty crazy stuff.
And here we are in day five and we are still talking about Bridges’s expenses. And the story is not getting better with the total spend by National MPs having increased dramatically, presumably in part because National had to throw the kitchen sink at the Northcote by election.
Watkins was saying similar things in her article. She said this:
Limogate could end up being Simon Bridges’ waterloo.
But first let’s cut the Opposition leader some slack. Because this so-called travel expenses scandal is hardly the stuff of Lotto dreams.
The furore about Bridges’ $113,000 travel bill isn’t a story about first class travel, exotic trips to Europe or swanning about in five star hotels.
It was about long nights spent away from home, longer days on the road, and a succession of public meetings in draughty halls, senior citizen’s rooms and local auditoriums.
I agree with that. Although Ubers would have been much cheaper.
She then said this:
Bridges’ bill was undoubtedly huge – although it seems some of that was a product of delayed invoicing, carried over from the previous quarter. But it was loose, not extravagant.
And if you’d rather our politicians got out amongst us than live in the Wellington bubble all week, it’s perfectly justified.
Agreed as well. It was a lot of money but given the nature of his job not overly excessive.
Watkins’ analysis was in my view spot on. The essence of her analysis was captured in these paragraphs:
This story should have ended with a mea culpa and promise to be less free with the Crown limo fleet in future.
Instead it will drag on for weeks and the costs will mount. A QC, an employment lawyer and a forensic expert are going to trawl through emails and phone records for evidence of the leaker.
All in the name of finding out who leaked a document that was due for public release within days anyway.
Bridges was backed into a corner because theories about an internal National Party leak we’re [sp] getting legs.
He needed to show supreme confidence in his caucus being 100 per cent in his camp.
But it looks over the top and unnecessary.
Watkins points out that for a party constantly complaining about the number of costly inquiries this is rather unusual behaviour. And if the leaker is in his caucus then it will be damaging. She ends by saying this:
[I]t’s not the spending now that Bridges has to fear but the fallout.
If the inquiry backfires, his colleagues will be questioning his judgement.
And that’s far more likely to prove fatal to his leadership than the size of his latest travel bill.
Tova O’Brien recently expressed a similar view. From Newshub:
It wouldn’t have taken much for Bridges to acknowledge the duty on MPs to spend taxpayers’ money judiciously, to acknowledge the privilege of his position and to reassure the public he takes that duty and privilege seriously.
Instead he chose unrepentant indignation bordering on arrogance.
Then he doubled down. Demanding a High Court Judge take time out from their duties to oversee a full-blown forensic investigation into the leaking of his expenses which is due to come out later this week anyway.
A lot of people have been asking how damaging the spending spree and expenses leak has been to Bridges. It certainly doesn’t help him but what’s arguably more damaging is his brazen disregard of voters who paid his way.
Contrition doesn’t cost a cent.
Six days of a scandal that should have lasted 24 hours. An expensive inquiry that may conclude that the leak came from within National’s ranks. And still no sign of contrition on the part of the opposition leader.
Not the best week for Simon Bridges.