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What has happened to Simon Bridges?

Written By: - Date published: 8:40 am, July 19th, 2018 - 42 comments
Categories: blogs, China, david clark, David Farrar, International, jacinda ardern, Media, national, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

You would think that while Jacinda Ardern takes time out to properly introduce baby Neve to the world opposition leader Simon Bridges would be striding throughout the country like a colossus and really make a name for himself.

But he has been rather invisible.  Maybe it is part of a cunning plan by National Strategists to lull Labour into a false sense of security.  Maybe they think he is better to wait until Jacinda is back.

Whatever it is he has been pretty invisible for the past few weeks. And when he has appeared he has been pretty appalling.

Like when he criticised David Clark for a quick trip to Australia to settle his kids in. Duncan Garner was scathing about his comments describing him as being truly pathetic. From Newshub:

“Leadership in these sorts of incidents, talking things down, talking in good faith about what the solutions are, they matter, and I think [David Clark] should’ve been here,” Mr Bridges told The AM Show.

But Duncan Garner didn’t take the comments lightly. He said it was “truly pathetic” of Mr Bridges to attack Dr Clark for being out of the country for 33 hours during the week when the nurses were striking.

“He has a wife and three young kids who he helped transport to Australia. He stayed the night and came straight home. A sprint to Australia and back to help your family get somewhere is hardly a perk. Being a minister is not his only job in life,” Garner said.

Dr Clark did the right thing by escorting his family over to Australia, Garner said, because travelling with young children is “a pretty stressful thing”.

It was not as if Clark was engaged in the negotiations.  He was not.  Health Board representatives were involved.  And he had his cell phone with him.

Bridges latest major media engagement was this weird interview he had with Radio New Zealand.  He was asked about the recently released New Zealand Defence Force Strategy which warned about expansion of Chinese activity in the South China sea and the implications for peace.  Bridges response was this:

“The defence paper is pretty clear in its critical stance but [Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters] won’t bring himself to be in that space,” he said.

“I think that is worrying. We all deserve, actually China deserves, a clear position from New Zealand, not having to read the tea leaves, not having to be open to misinterpretation.”

There needed to be greater clarity and understanding around the defence paper to avoid the risk of negative economical consequences, he said.

“We need to understand the validity of where Mr Peters is taking us in this – we’ve got the stringent defence document, we don’t see that coming through in his comments, it’s this very obtuse position.

“I’ve got to say as well, this will have economic ramifications for New Zealand. I just don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Mr Bridges said.

What was he saying?  We should not criticise China because it may affect trade?

He was asked a curly question by Espiner about National MP Jian Yang and blew it.  The discussion went like this:

Espiner – What’s [Yang’s] spokesmanship.

Bridges – Statistics

Espiner – anything else?

Bridges – no, not at this time

Espiner – his bio says he is an associate spokesperson for ethnic communities is that right as well

Bridges – that would be right, he is remarkably effective at that …

But it is not only the misspeaking that is getting him into trouble.  It is also his invisibility.  He seems to be missing from the media at a time when there is little opposition.

As an example the National Party blogger has posted three posts in the past month mentioning Bridges.  One was an incidental mention of him in a quoted passage by Shane Te Pou, the second was a post where questions that Bridges asked of Peters in Parliament were referred to, and the third also contained an incidental reference to him.

By way of contrast my count is that Jacinda Ardern was mentioned in no fewer than 12 Kiwiblog posts.

Although the content is somewhat confusing this Newstalk  ZB heading from a normally supportive media organisation speaks volumes.  It says “If Simon Bridges fails, at least he’s tried”.

Other cheerleaders claim that he is putting in the hard yards and is a social media warrior.  The facebook like count would suggest otherwise.  Jacinda Ardern has 276,000 likes compared to Simon’s 33,000.  And having your invitation list open so that anyone can see that right now only four people intend going to your Te Atatu public meeting scheduled for tomorrow is not the sign of a social media warrior.

I am sure Bridges is trying.  I am also pretty sure he is failing.

42 comments on “What has happened to Simon Bridges? ”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    Social media warrior ?

    Does that mean they are spending largish amounts on Facebook ads to put him out there ? I dont use the thing so cant tell

  2. One Two 2

    33 Hours


  3. Hanswurst 3

    His interviews read almost exactly like Key’s, tbh. I don’t think the problem is Bridges himself, but the fact that National were caught off-guard without a proper succession plan when the 2017 election was lost (perhaps even by Key’s resignation under a year earlier). If you look back at 2005, Key was being talked up as leader and given minimal but clear framing as a policy heavyweight as National’s economics spokesman before almost anybody had ever even seen him in action. On becoming leader, of course, he revealed himself to be an utter doofus, misspeaking, tying himself in knots (“A Labour government I lead…”, “30,000… erm… 50,000… erm, no, actually 100,000 shares in Tranzrail”) and generally making an ass of himself. Virtually nothing he ever said made any sense at all. However, National already had the roll-out of the statehouse-boy-to-riches story prepared to accompany his becoming leader and capture the imagination of the electorate as a positive framing on what he actually presented.

    The difference for Bridges, I think, is manifold. Firstly, he hasn’t had that carefully crafted spin seeded before he entered the limelight. Secondly, no matter who you are and what the spin, it’s hard to enter the limelight without significant negative baggage when coming off three terms in government. Key had the massive asset of coming from a background outside politics, with his rise as a politician coinciding with his party’s resurgence from opposition; that’s just the way the biscuit breaks sometimes. Thirdly, Key was novel; Bridges is an attempt to recapture that, and it’s been done now. Finally, that particular coveted pole-position in the popular consciousness has been captured by Jacinda Ardern, another politician whose rise in popularity has had more to do with being in the right place at the right time than with any actual substance, regardless of what that substance is. Bridges would have to be all sorts of special to succeed at all at this point.

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.1

      I think this is a big problem of the emerging trend (helped along by the media) to less parliamentary, more leader-focused politics, where it’s difficult to mentor a successor as Party Leader while maintaining the near-absolute discipline and control of cabinet that the media seem to want. There is little room in such a model for alternative leaders to become independent and learn their own styles under such a model, and I wonder if we can expect a further series of nine-year swings each direction under it if it continues.

      Otherwise I’m quite a fan of what you’re getting at though- there was a lot of careful branding of Key that Simo just can’t capture, he doesn’t have the charisma for it, and he’s very clearly a born-to-rule club member who will find it difficult to capture that centrist vote that National needs to pinch back off Labour.

      • paul andersen 3.1.1

        if you can fake sincerity, youve got it made. key could, bridges cant.

        • tc

          Totally and gaming the systems along with rewriting as many rules as required helps heaps.

          Simey’s got the hospital pass after the hollowmens looting of the NZ economy. A low or no profile’s not that bad a play ackshully IMO.

      • swordfish 3.1.2


        … to capture that centrist vote that National needs to pinch back off Labour

        Labour certainly made inroads into the Centrist vote at the last Election … but … according to recent UMR research … National remains dominant in that domain.

        Labour’s real secret is that the Left segment of voters is larger than both the Centrist and Right segments (and so it doesn’t need to win the lion’s share of the Centre vote to win Office … just needs to make reasonable inroads).

        That’s according to UMR research, at least (The New Zealand Election Study tends to record greater Centrist and weaker Leftist sentiment among voters than UMR and thus places more emphasis on the need to capture the Centre).

    • Kevin 3.2

      Haha, the TranzRail shares. He was played like a fish on that one.

      Still cannot believe that he did not twig earlier that Fran Mold KNEW how many shares he had, yet he still kept lying through his teeth about it.

  4. mauī 4

    He was on TV3’s the Project last week, he obviously appeals to the hip, young crowd of Gen Yers. Much like Seymour you would have to say..

  5. mac1 5

    “…….China deserves, a clear position from New Zealand, not having to read the tea leaves……”

    Simon Bridges is showing great cultural awareness, having no doubt learnt from his associate spokesperson for ethnic communities, Mt Yang, about how China gets its intelligence.

    Tasseography is one of Simon’s fortes. It seems that it is also how he gets his information and political insights.

    Google informs us- “Tasseography is an ancient practice of divination, or fortune-telling. High quality loose-leaf tea is ideal for practicing this craft. Tea leaf reading is a tradition that likely began soon after the discovery of tea by Chinese Emperor Shen Nun in 2737 BC.”

  6. dV 6

    SO what is the natz clear unequivocal position regarding China Mr Bridge?

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      Probably that they’ll do whatever China wants.

      It’s part of the psyche of authoritarians and the right-wing that they’ll always kowtow to those with more power.

  7. Tricledrown 7

    National are like Trump with Russia.
    Having a former Chinese spy trainer on the Defence committee.
    Collins husband able to do deals with China no other NZ company can do.

    • cleangreen 7.1

      100% Trickledrown
      We are no effective government now with National as they had no backbone at all, at least NZF sticks upm with Winston Peters always claiming China should be kept at arms length.

  8. Morrissey 8

    Don’t like to boast, but I tagged this mediocrity way back in 2012….

    The most hilarious bit comes when he obsequiously praises his Dear Leader….

    “When you think about him as a politician and his both intellect and EQ
    [emotional intelligence], he is a complete package so it is hard to go
    past him in terms of his style and the way he does things.”

    “He is not an academic but he is intellectual,” says Bridges.


  9. veutoviper 9

    Sorry, MS. I rarely disagree with you and I am definitely no fan of Bridges, but the premise of your post that Bridges“has been pretty invisible for the past few weeks” is questionable if you actually do a Google and a Twitter search.

    Genetic google search

    Genetic Twitter search
    https://twitter.com/search?q=simon+bridges&ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Esearch TS features in this search quite a lot including your post(s) – h/t Lynn and Mike Smith. Also lots of other relevant posts on that search site. LOL.

    It seems that Bridges is still “striding throughout the country” – but not necessarily like a colossus nor necessarily making a name for himself.” – to use some of your wonderful wording above.

    Bridges is reasonably active on his official Twitter account and posted this a couple of days ago – “Kicked off the week with a jam-packed couple of days in Canterbury. As well as public meetings as part of my roadshow, it was a pleasure to officially open Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey’s new Rangiora office & great to meet with a number of community & business leaders.” –

    But in terms of effectiveness etc, much as I know the opinion of many/most people here (including me) of Barry Soper and NZ herald, this article more or less sums up the situation, even just in its title alone – ” Simon Bridges’ biggest problem is Prominence”:


    As it is not all that long, to save giving clickbait, here is most of it.
    ‘You can say plenty of things about National’s leader Simon Bridges – and plenty of people have. Of all the aspirants for the party’s top job, Bridges was probably the least known. He was, however, considered shrewd.

    … [couple of sentences about other applicants for Nat leader].

    His biggest problem is prominence – he’s not well known by the electorate and, with the last opinion poll putting him at nine per cent, he knows he has cause for worry. At the same time in his leadership, John Key was polling at 24 per cent and Bill English was at 25 per cent.

    So there was only one thing for it: get his mug out to the masses.

    By Saturday, Bridges will have held 66 public meetings through the length and breadth of the country since May. So no one can argue that he’s work-shy, even if a number of the meetings have been at inconvenient times of mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

    While he’s been putting himself out there glad handing, he’s also become a social media warrior, hitting all the platforms, some of them telling us stuff that we don’t really need to know, like how good he is at changing nappies or how obsessive he is with the laundry (still, it’s a step up from Bill English’s pizzas).

    Since Jacinda Ardern’s been on maternity leave, the cut and thrust of Parliament’s bear pit’s become something of a training ground for him, pitted against Winston Peters who obviously finds him less offensive than the two former National leaders. The only thing Peters has got against him is Bridges beat him resoundingly in Tauranga in 2008 which, thanks to Key, saw New Zealand First out of Parliament for the next three years.

    But when Bridges takes on the wily old fox he’d do well to steer clear of the lair which he fell into recently when he asked Peters whether he agreed with David Parker’s view that business opinion surveys are junk.

    Peters shot back quoting an IMF report, quite removed from surveys in this country he reminded him, but praising the economy. Going in for the kill, Peters said the main author of the report was one of Key’s former economic advisers. So, the acting Prime Minister declared, yes he did agree with Parker’s wise comment.

    Stand up more slowly, be more careful and try to be a gentleman, was Peters’ parting shot in the clash.

    But it’s away from Parliament that Bridges really needs to make his mark and, if he can’t make it there, his 55 National colleagues will become restless. But at least they won’t be able to say he hasn’t put in the hard yards.”

    There is plenty more in the general Google search along the same lines, especially if you add a time filter – eg last month or last week – as the momentum re Bridges’ apparent lack of making a positive impact seem to be growing if you measure it by current media feedback.

    CLICKBAIT WARNING: this Newstalk ZB one is a repeat of the Barry Soper one above under a different title – http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/opinion/the-soap-box-if-simon-bridges-fails-at-least-hes-tried/

    As a slight aside,I found this Newshub item interesting where Duncan Garner of all people blasted Bridges a few days ago for criticising David Clark for flying to Australia with his wife and three young children. Apparently Clark only flew across to Australia with them to help with the children on the flight and then returned to NZ the next day.

    Garner called Bridges’ comments “truly pathetic” and also said “In my view, [David Clark] actually did the honourable thing.”


  10. cleangreen 10

    Micky you asked; – :What has happend to Simon Bridges”?

    The same question could be asked about the ‘ten bridges’ he promised Northland remember?

    Simon who? – Who cares?

  11. Tuppence Shrewsbury 11

    What has happened to any positive mentions of labour ministers in the absence of Jacinda? I would have thought grant Robertson would be front and centre

    • cleangreen 11.1

      Tuppence Shewsbury;

      Labour has done ‘much to fix your National Party srew-ups’ – that Labour was left with to deal with quickly so far in the last 8 months; – they have been in Government.

      It may take six years to get NZ back on a straight path again, – no thanks to national.

      So enough said!!!!

      • Lebleaux 11.1.1

        Not “enough said”.

        The question was:
        “What has happened to any positive mentions of labour ministers in the absence of Jacinda? I would have thought grant Robertson would be front and centre”

        The response lacked any reference to any positive references to anything. So ……

        “What has happened to any positive mentions of labour ministers in the absence of Jacinda? I would have thought Grant Robertson would be front and centre”

        • Tricledrown

          Less is more in politics people don’t want polys in their face 24/7 Bridges is trying to do that but barking at tyres is how it comes across

    • Kevin 11.2

      Have you been in an information vacuum for the past 15 years TS?

      News media prefer scandal and confrontation to good news stories. Especially when it involves politics.

      • Tuppence Shrewsbury 11.2.1

        Where has labour been is what I asked? Plenty of coverage in media of the last government, positive and negative.

        Seems telling I get attacked for asking the hard questions rather than anyone actually being able to answer. #edcall

        • McFlock

          There’s your slide.
          Labour is not the government.

          The government has had regular coverage.
          Labour has had less, because the acting PM is the one usually interviewed.

          Has the amount of news coverage about Labour cabinent ministers (excluding the PM) changed at all?

          • Tuppence Shrewsbury

            Splitting those hairs awfully finely there McFlock

            The coverage of this government then is almost non existent since the prime minister left. Except for the media reporting the inconsistency of its decision s

            • McFlock

              Well, then either our recollection of reporting on issues involving the government differs fundamentally, or the difference is in our respective understanding of the qualifier “almost”.

              Because me local newspaper seems to be reporting on the government regularly.

              edit: unless “inconsistency” is the point of difference?

    • patricia bremner 11.3

      Actually, interest co.nz had quite a flattering article on Robertson and the choice of the new Reserve Bank Governor.
      Winston has had praise for his steadiness.
      Phil Twyford has had mixed reviews as the opposition try the “inept” meme, which the faithful rightwing journos have repeated ad nauseum.
      Mostly the Government are getting on with trying to improve things. It won’t happen overnight,but what is achieved will more visible than Bridge’s bridges.

  12. Sabine 12

    who cares?

  13. Robert Guyton 13

    Glares, scares (Fezzik).

  14. Delia 15

    I think he took maternity leave in sympathy with Jacinda, and gave himself a break, a break David Clark was not approved of by him.

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