The week of Limogate

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: ,

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.

 

44 comments on “The week of Limogate”

  1. Ed 1

    Please can he stay as National’s leader……

    • Good call, Ed. I was recently chided on twitter for hoping Bridges would get dumped. Far better for the country that he stays at least until after the next election.

      Obviously he’ll be dumped then; National have little patience for losers. Then Judith Collins can put a catspaw candidate up and lead the party by proxy.

    • Chris 1.2

      That’s the problem. His incompetence and natural ability to repulse is something his political detractors welcome. It’s frustrating but he’s so incompetent and so repulsive it’s likely he’ll fail to keep his job. Come on Simon, buck your ideas up. We need you to hang around for as long as you can.

  2. The Chairman 2

    Limogate has helped distract the focus away from the teachers dispute.

    • Are we being played?

    • Muttonbird 2.2

      Labour’s fault, eh?

      Thought so.

    • dukeofurl 2.3

      Hardly, theres probably been 5x the coverage for the teachers strike and their wage claims.
      national and its stooges such as Rotton and Hosker have been making their own waves despaerate …desprate I tell you topoint the bone at everyone other than Bridges.

      Hosker is making the absurd claim the limo is a higher rate than ministers pay. Not surprising as if Bridges is visiting small towns as a ‘tour’ away from the cities limos are based in than you will pay for driver accommodation costs as well. There is only 1 limo in Dunedin ? for the bottom half of South Island ( from memory). And if the limos are in use and some one needs to be driven then private limos are called on like Corporate Cabs but many others as well. So its not just fixed costs have to covered if they are used or not.

      • The Chairman 2.3.1

        I didn’t imply it (the teachers dispute) got no coverage. But the timing of Limogate couldn’t have been any better for Labour.

        • Nick 2.3.1.1

          Well that cleared that up then chairman

        • dukeofurl 2.3.1.2

          teachers strikes affect lots more people directly than crown limos and any way theres always stories when Mps and Ministers expenses are released…happens every 3 months or so.
          Just unusual that the push back against Bridges was so strong and his weak handling ( he used different stairs to avoid media on Tues in parliament).

          If I was Bridges I would use the questions about limo use to give a new round of publicity for the small towns . … with a list of schools, clinics factories he visited ‘on tour’ and a chance to pump regional NZ etc etc.
          But Bridges doesnt have the experienced support staff Key and English had

  3. Stuart Munro 3

    I’d rather our leaders got out of the limo habit. Unless you own your own it’s ostentation at public expense – never justified.

    • Yeah, its always seemed a little in your face considering all the people that can barely afford the bus these days…. perhaps in in foreign officials arrivals etc , but… a little ostentatious yes.

      And btw,…

      Speaking of buses,… I know it was slightly different circumstances…. but Winston used a bus…

      Food for thought.

    • dukeofurl 3.2

      The main reason is so Ministers can work in their car while been driven. As well the vehicles are on call so that you get taken to an event and the car will wait around to pick you up when its done.

      What should change to back to the old rule about government business only, so no limos dropping you off to a concert venue to hear Adele etc. That change has been in for 10 years or so –
      Plus there is some overlap to staff use, which is OK for someone travelling with a minister who is then ‘dropped off’ but definitely should be a no no to pick a staff member up from airport say. They can use taxis for that, and I think some staff members get all high and mighty and expect a limo of a taxi for everything and not be conscious its public money.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      You do understand that the government limos are work areas right? They don’t stop work just because they’re on the road.

    • veutoviper 3.4

      Ardern has been pushing the sharing of vehicles and use of vans etc rather than limos since she came in as PM. Although she went to her swearing in at Government House alone in a limo I think she was entitled to give herself a few minutes alone to reflect on her big day (and apparently it was her first day with morning sickness (ugh), but she then returned to Parliament in one of the buses used to transport Coalition Govt Ministers etc to their swearing in.

      For her first regional trip to the Wairarapa on Thursday, she and the accompanying MPs and Ministers travelled together – and were not accompanied by Gayford and their baby.

      But there is another factor I have not seen mentioned here and that is security – and that relates to both Ardern and Peters as PM and DPM, and Bridges as LOTO, as they are all subject to DPS protection which must also be taken into account in their travel arrangements.

    • alwyn 3.5

      I hope you will mention that to Ms Genter and Ms Sage when next you see them.
      I have seen both of them heading for the airport in their (individual) Bimmers.
      I can’t speak for Shaw or the other one in your party so perhaps they are a little bit more circumspect. I suspect it is just that I haven’t actually seen them rather than they don’t avail themselves of the baubles.

      There are actually good reasons for the Chauffeur driven cars, although I would have thought a Camry would have been sufficient. The people who use them spend all the time in them on the phone. It is a very efficient use of the time, after all. That would not be possible if they were driving themselves and would not keep the calls confidential if they used taxis.
      Bring on the AV tsunami. Then we won’t have people wasting their time simply driving around the self-important polies.

  4. Simon Wilson nails National’s problem in the Herald:

    “Members didn’t like losing Key, a lot of them weren’t reassured by Bill English and it seems they can’t see the point of Simon Bridges. In the past 10 years, mostly in the past two, the party has lost over 40 per cent of its members.”

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12107360

    They obviously retain solid support from conservative Kiwis, but that seems to be based on an autonomic response from folk who know no other way to vote.

    I think Simon Bridges is lost. I’d offer this tweet as proof:

    “Winston Peters & Ron Mark saying I sought to do a deal with them is completely false, desperate stuff. They should focus on things that matter to New Zealanders not untrue sideshows & distractions.”

    “They should focus on things that matter to New Zealanders”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And to be fair, that line worked for John Key, time and time again.

    But Simon Bridges is no John Key. He’s not even a Max Key.

  5. Incognito 5

    A high-powered investigation is the last refuge of a political scoundrel. Particularly if that scoundrel has a legal background. Take the fight away from the public arena (and opinion, which is largely manufactured by MSM), choose your weapons, defer and buy time, and it is BAU.

  6. mary_a 6

    In good dutiful form, Natz gobshite Mike Hosking said (some time during the week via NZH), that the important issue was not what Bridges spent, but who leaked the information to media!

    Predictable diversion tactics from Mikey.

    • Anne 6.1

      I wonder if he was as concerned about the leaking of Winston Peters’ superannuation over-payment. I think not.

    • Incognito 6.2

      It’s a variation on the old theme of shoot the messenger or silence the whistle-blower: seek and destroy the leaker.

  7. Observer Tokoroa 7

    Hey Big Spender

    A lot of commenters are saying it is not the whacking amount of money that Simon Bridges spent that matters. It is the leaking of the horrendous amount that matters.

    He spent that money in considerable Luxury.

    No thought for the hundreds of thousands of people that are struggling under his Government’s policy and management.

    A Government that PM John Key ran away from. A Government that PM BIll English ran away from.

    A Rat of a Government.

  8. Hooch 8

    Here’s a scenario. Deliberate leak and investigation knowing high profile Nat will be found out. Said Nat is expelled from party, joins ACT or some other right wing party to help National win next election. Bridges kept in dark about plan to provide plausible deniability??

  9. Jackel 9

    When I think of brain work, who’s done it and how they’ve done it, I wouldn’t say that whole mob of Tories was worth one limo. Couldn’t say they know what a dollar’s worth either and they’re supposed to be frickin Tories. Pigs in a trough more like.

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