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Who wants to lead the National Party?

Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, May 21st, 2020 - 93 comments
Categories: national, Nikki Kaye, paula bennett, same old national, Simon Bridges, todd muller, uncategorized - Tags:

Simon Bridges is not going down without a fight.

First he outs the challenge to displace him although he does not say who the challengers are.

This is left up to an anonymous source leaking the details to media.

The names have been among those bandied around for a while, Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.

Obviously they are trying to present a team. Dour business farming type male and likable urban liberal female.

Muller has not yet set the world alight with his parliamentary career.  I concede that he managed to get National to a semi rational position of climate change and National did support the Zero Carbon Bill but otherwise his parliamentary career has not been stellar. And he undid the good achieved by the bill by attacking Te Papa for hosting a water display that makes perfect scientific sense by calling it a kick in the guts to farmers.

The overwhelming response to his candidacy has so far been “Todd who?”.

Then Judith Collins moves in and potentially crushed Muller’s bid by announcing she will be supporting Bridges and not standing herself.

Muller further compounds things by emailing all of caucus later yesterday afternoon.  The email is immediately leaked.

Bridges then in a sign of extreme power or extreme stupidity called the Caucus showdown meeting for tomorrow, Friday.

This suggests two things:

  1. He knows the results of tonight’s Colmar Brunton poll and they are not too bad for National.  Anything above 32% could be spun as an improvement.
  2. He is confident of his caucus numbers.

The confidence as to caucus numbers is always something to be taken with a grain of salt.  I understand the ballot is a confidential ballot.  In 2003 Don Brash in an upset replaced Bill English even though English thought he had the numbers to hang on.  The rumour was that John Key switched votes, vital in a 14-12 vote. Corralling MPs on career affecting decisions and getting them to commit is like herding cats.

But if Bridges did not have the numbers then it would be rational to have the meeting next week and see if some weekend arm twisting could turn things around. Hence, I presume, his confidence.

What is really surprising is that this debate is being held in public with senior party figures like John Key and Jim Bolger expressing support for other candidates. This morning Matthew Hooton and Michelle Boag offered totally contradictory views of what is happening within Caucus. In the past decade I cannot think of a time where National appeared more rattled and disorganised and more lacking in discipline.

The challenge has an extra level of urgency about it, particularly for Nikki Kaye.  If she fails no doubt she will be demoted to a list place that will see her leave Parliament.  And I cannot see her winning Auckland Central.

There is also a groundswell of support for Bridges from some unlikely sources.  All together now …

93 comments on “Who wants to lead the National Party? ”

  1. observer 1

    Bridges doesn't know the poll numbers (or didn't at time of his comments). The polling was still going on.

    MPs' public comments are quite revealing. It's safe to say "I support the leader". That's the default response, and if the leader then loses, you can't be sacked just for supporting the party's leader at the time.

    BUT if you say "I don't support the leader" and he keeps his job, you're in trouble. So you just don't answer the question, like the MPs at the end of the story.

    Every ''no comment" is a problem for Bridges.

  2. Adrian 2

    If Simon really, really wants to hold on to the job he should open up voting to the Labour caucus as well.

    It would be a landslide, the biggiest landslide, greatest landslide ever.

  3. Peter 3

    Jami-Lee Ross was Bridges' numbers man last time around. A lot of water has gone under a lot of bridges since then eh?

  4. Andre 4

    Corralling MPs on career affecting decisions and getting them to commit is like herding cats.

    Herding cats is easy. All ya gotta do is manage their food. Same principle more or less applies to MPs.

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    Interesting that Richard Harman came out & picked Muller this morning. He's aging very well. Every comment incisive & on point.

    I see it as a style vs substance divide in National. The Key faction go for style, so will keep to the status quo assuming Simon is born to lose – their problem is that even with Luxon elected MP, it's too soon to make him leader.

    Bolger and the party base prefer substance. Muller apparently has that. Plus he's the only viable bridge to the Greens in the forseeable future for them. Nikki Kaye has never distinguished herself but mainstreamers love bland cuties, so it could work.

    You could frame it as urban liberals vs rural nationalists, eh? Poor old Shane Jones. All those dollars showered on the regions, and the nationalists still don't like their benefactor. Bugger!

    • Sacha 5.1

      Harman's post is well worth a read today, yes: https://www.politik.co.nz/2020/05/21/how-bridges-flushed-out-muller/

      Bridges has a strong core of support; people like Paula Bennett, Todd McClay, Brett Hudson, Michael Woodhouse, Louise Upston and the Christian conservatives within the caucus.

      Ironically Muller is himself a practising Catholic who voted against the abortion law reform changes and the assisted dying bill. Nikki Kaye, on the other hand, is regarded as one of the most progressive social-liberals in National’s caucus.

      Muller built his base up patiently through his work as Climate Change spokesperson when he visited virtually every electorate in the country ultimately convincing them that rural New Zealand, in particular, were best served by a bi-partisan Zero Carbon Bill. Kaye was his advocate in urban New Zealand.

      • Dennis Frank 5.1.1

        Okay, that's evidence of strategic thinking from the pair. I hadn't read that – I was commenting on his views expressed in response to questions from Ryan Bridge on the AM Show.

        • Sacha 5.1.1.1

          That's the guy with the big hair, right?

          • Dennis Frank 5.1.1.1.1

            Yeah, but he has it tied back in a bun when fronting the show. His hirers don't want to freak their mainstream audience.

      • woodart 5.1.2

        more importantly than all of this is the money, who brings in the most and who can follow instructions. bridges has shown that he can bring in bags of cash and obviously works well with the beijing office, can muller? catholic church has lost much of its political clout, but you can be sure they will have mullers ear. fed farmers dont give money, just want clout without the $$ to buy it. collins seems on bridges side(trust her?) and she brings the yen. swapping bennet for kaye wouldnt make much diff to nats backers.deci$ions deci$ions..

        • Adrian 5.1.2.1

          Most of the catholic vote went Labour for generations.

        • Phil 5.1.2.2

          catholic church has lost much of its political clout,

          Catholicism is the single largest identified religious affiliation in NZ.

    • Sacha 5.2

      Poor old Shane Jones. All those dollars showered on the regions, and the nationalists still don't like their benefactor.

      Maybe voters do not confuse pork barelling with vision or leadership. Sure, they will take the money now but it will not secure their loyalty. Sounds like Muller is offering them a longer-term relationship than Jones is up to.

      • Dennis Frank 5.2.1

        You're right, I suspect. Dunno if pork-barrelling is fair though. Winston is genuine in trying to do regional development, I believe. Remember it was Anderton who started that refocus, long ago, and we integrated it into Green economic policy since it was consistent with the principle of bioregionalism & empowering communities.

        • Sacha 5.2.1.1

          Someone wrote earlier this year that Winston and Shane are just honouring the legacy of 1970s politics with crony handouts for favoured industries and operators – might have been Harman? That business model is coming to grief under scrutiny over their 'foundation'.

          • woodart 5.2.1.1.1

            "someone wrote" probably someone who hasnt been out in the real world for years. out here in the provinces ,plenty of hard working new zealanders have seen real progress in the regions thru the development fund.

            • Sacha 5.2.1.1.1.1

              That does not contradict what was said. The results of that way of doing business may be appreciated by those who benefit in parts of the country. Horsing industry is certainly grateful and I'm sure some roadbuilders are as well.

              • woodart

                maybe you need to get out into the real world sacha. very many things that arent horses or roadbuilders have benefited from looking OUTSIDE two cities

      • RosieLee 5.2.2

        Speaking of shane Jones. Where the hell is he? Very very quiet of late.

  6. Ad 6

    Just makes me ill remembering all Labour's changes through 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

    I feel for National right now, going through what we went through after Helen Clark.

    • Barfly 6.1

      I feel for National to ……….schadenfreude

    • mickysavage 6.2

      Brings back many memories. At one level I am really enjoying this, at another I am feeling sorry for Bridges …

      • AB 6.2.1

        As a human being it's hard not to feel sorry for Bridges. But in an interesting interview with Kim Hill and Mat Hooten this morning, we learned that the Reid poll apparently included an associative word-cloud – and the result for Bridges was so awful at a personal level it has been kept from the public. Make no mistake, if it had been David Cunliffe, it would have been slathered everywhere in the public domain with hoots of derision and mentions of non-existent $100k bottles of wine.

      • Enough is Enough 6.2.2

        Why would you feel sorry for Bridges? You have spent the past two years devoting most of your time on here attacking him.

        Anyone MP who can't handle defeat should not be in Parliament.

        There are very few MPs who go out as winners, and even fewer who are disappointed when they leave Parliament. For most it is a huge relief and they get on with more fulfilling careers.

        • mickysavage 6.2.2.1

          At a human level I do feel sorry for Bridges. Parliament can be the most corrosive destructive environment imaginable and that is on both sides.

          • Tricledrown 6.2.2.1.1

            So true Mickey politics is dirty business very few come out unscathed.

      • observer 6.2.3

        Nobody, even Bridges, should be getting the nasty treatment. He's a human being.

        I would feel more sympathy for him if – just once – he had ever found the decency to call out his own MPs for their vile abuse directed at the PM. I'm sure Simon doesn't think that Jacinda's NZ is like Nazi Germany (because he's not brain-dead). But it's OK for National MPs to say it, with nothing from the leader except … tumbleweed.

        If he had slapped down his own idiots he'd be more popular with the public and wouldn't be in this mess. So he's earned it.

        • I Feel Love 6.2.3.1

          Yes, if he had slapped down the Nazi comparison it would have shown leadership, at the moment it's a free for all and rudderless. I feel no sympathy, his criticism isn't made up bottles of wine or made up quotes.

        • Adrian 6.2.3.2

          Thats because he is one of them. I have absolutely no fucking sympathy whatsoever, he's a nasty, self-entitled dickhead who couldn't give a shit about anybody but himself and the hardest work he has done is selling his party and the country to the nastiest regime in the world to hold on to power for himself. Fuck him and all who sail in him.

  7. Incognito 7

    I can see Nikki Kaye doing quite well in the election debates with Jacinda Ardern. The worm won’t know which way to wriggle.

    • Andre 7.1

      Nikki is indeed the only Nat to have ever beaten Jacinda in any kind of one-on-one.

      • Sacha 7.1.1

        She is a good local MP as well, apparently. Smart and capable.

        Maybe this move is her being decisive about whether her personal future after the election lies in politics or something else? Opposition is unrewarding when you have more to give than your party allows.

        • ScottGN 7.1.1.1

          I think she’s a bit overrated to be honest. She wasn’t a particularly good Minister of Education (unless all you’re asking of her was to mop up after the disaster that was Hekia Parata) and she’s not been terribly effective as Shadow Minister to Hopkins either. She’s had other portfolios over the years but does anyone remember what they were?

      • Enough is Enough 7.1.2

        Other than Bill English you mean?

        • Andre 7.1.2.1

          When did Bill ever get the better of Jacinda in a one-on-one?

          • Enough is Enough 7.1.2.1.1

            The last general election which was run as a "Presidential" type campaign by both parties.

            It was Bill v Jacindamania.

            • froggleblocks 7.1.2.1.1.1

              Yes, which is why Bill has 59.5% support as Preferred Prime Minister right now, having led the country in a successful elimination effort against COVID-19.

            • Andre 7.1.2.1.1.2

              Even if your claim about a presidential-style campaign was actually accurate, it's still a massively delusional stretch to describe a party vote contest as a one-on-one between just the two leaders.

              • Enough is Enough

                I'm not a Bill supporter. I am a member of the Green party as you will pick up from 10 years of me commenting on here.

                How else would you assess leaders going one on one, if not by the party vote they attract as leaders?

                There have only been two National candidate to go one on one with Jacinda in an electorate, so to suggest Nikki is indeed the only Nat to have ever beaten Jacinda is entirely accurate if that is how you choose to make such an assessment.

      • Anne 7.1.3

        Yes, and that happened at the start of Jacinda's career in politics when she stood for Auckland Central for the first time. It would be fair to say her debating skills have been well honed since then.

      • ScottGN 7.1.4

        It was never a one-on-one though. Kaye only ever won Akl Central (even at the height of Key’s popularity) because Labour and Greens split the left leaning vote in a simple FPP electorate contest. In every election Labour plus Greens have outpolled National in the electorate vote.

        • froggleblocks 7.1.4.1

          So what you're saying is, Jacinda wasn't capable of winning over the Green voters to her side, so she lost to Kaye.

          • ScottGN 7.1.4.1.1

            No what I’m saying is that Kaye was never able to get enough votes on the centre right to win the seat outright and always had to rely on the centre left vote splitting between Labour and the Greens.

  8. AB 8

    If it doesn't work out for Muller we already have the word to describe it: 'Todesfuge'.

    Hat tip to the great and tragic Paul Celan – "Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends" (Black milk of morning we drink in the evening")

  9. Bridges has been out of his depth the whole time, prone to ridiculous outbursts and embarrassing gaffes. Acts like an Auckland Grammar boy who hasn't worked hard a day in his life, but bears the confidence born of arrogance and entitlement. The public aren't buying whatever he's selling. Nats need boring, sensible, reliable at this time of crisis not a loudmouth showpony trying to act like a prosecutor on LA Law

    • Dennis Frank 9.1

      I was a regular viewer of LA Law. I actually learnt stuff from their dramatisation of US law. Interesting nexus where law intersects with morality and pragmatism, psychodynamics of competition, etc. Simon attempts the style, lacks the nous.

      • Stephen D 9.1.1

        Apparently when Law and Order first came out Russia used as an example of how to separate police and judiciary.

  10. Muttonbird 10

    He knows the results of tonight’s Colmar Brunton poll and they are not too bad for National.

    Question: How would he know the results ahead of time?

    • Incognito 10.1

      Question: would he share it with Caucus?

      • Sacha 10.1.1

        Has anyone leaked their own paid Curia polling results with caucus yet? Might explain their renewed sense of urgency.

        • Tricledrown 10.1.1.1

          Lance the boil or leave it fester that is the question political perceptions are virtually impossible to change once bedded in.David Sheater Cunliffe Jack Marshall etc very likeable people but not politically savvy.

  11. pat 11

    "Yet that generous target was apparently not enough to placate National's agricultural base. At the party's conference over the weekend, Muller was hit by allegations that the party was moving too fast on climate change. Many members still do not believe in climate change, and it appeared there was still a strong voice within the party that doesn't want to move on the issue."

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/114621991/todd-muller-promoted-in-national-party-reshuffle-but-climate-change-demoted

    too successful?

  12. Todd Muller attacking science at Te Papa reminds me of Trump. Not a great deal of substance and if that is style, they really do need new blood.

    Two things will come out of this coming decision, those farmers not totally listening to their own association may get a voice, and regenerative and organic farming will be set back if Todd's attitude to water is promulgated more widely.

    Business is finding that reliance on tourism has shaped their covid fate so they are having to refocus and realign their values to a new reality.

    Factory farming is now becoming a more risky venture due to debt levels. Banks will vote with their profits in mind no matter how much the Government encourages forward thinking.

    It is to be hoped the farming sector take this opportunity for growing their added value, rather than the boom and bust factory farming.

    Resilience is a quality needed here, along with vision. Conservatives find the former possible, but the latter less so. Both require risk taking and that is counter to their fundamental beliefs.

    Bridges is old school law conservative, Muller is the same but farming conservative.
    The differences are superficial between these men, and the real change would be Nicky Kaye.
    She is supposed to soften Muller's conservative face, a "token woman", but as a cancer survivor, she would bring a different perspective.

    • Bearded Git 12.1

      Nicely put Patricia….and agreed

    • tc 12.2

      Yes but it's all splitting hairs over which version of neolib to present as viable.

      There nationals problem right there, proven failed ideological approach with shedloads of evidence from across the planet.

      A half decent media would've stripped the emperor's clothes long ago but then it's not serving the wider public is it.

  13. Barfly 13

    Any one feeling sorry for Bridges should watch this and remember

  14. Wayne 14

    Nikki Kaye will probably win Auckland Central, no matter what happens.

    When a major party loses the party vote, they usually hold on to the electorate vote, particularly if the local MP is popular. In short the voters switching sides between the two major parties tend to split their votes.

    On that basis I expect Nikki to win Auckland Central. She is well known. She works hard. She is widely seen as being an effective local MP.

    • Dennis Frank 14.1

      Is a deputy leader merely a handbag-minder? Not really. You need to be able to stake out a position & defend it. We need to see her do that – to demonstrate an essential component of leadership.

      Then there's the ability to articulate the views of the leader. Independently, without parrotting. Voters don't elect parrots. That means mental faculties, such as framing stuff to suit audiences that are nationwide. We also await evidence of that.

    • Sacha 14.2

      When a major party loses the party vote, they usually hold on to the electorate vote, particularly if the local MP is popular. In short the voters switching sides between the two major parties tend to split their votes.

      The voters who stay at home on the other hand do not cast an electorate vote..

    • mickysavage 14.3

      With current polling not a chance I am afraid Wayne. A good candidate can stem the flow but can never stop it.

    • mac1 14.4

      There use to be an electoral wisdom that a candidate had a personal vote of about a possible 1000 votes but all the rest went on party lines.

      There is little evidence that Kiwis have yet used MMP to toss out useless MPs while still voting for their party of choice.

      Does anyone know different ie how many votes are cast for candidate of a different party from the party vote choice of an elector- we should say outside of an obvious set up like Epsom?

    • lprent 14.5

      Nikki Kaye will probably win Auckland Central, no matter what happens.

      Just under 1600 majority. No boundary changes.
      Same excellent Labour candidate as last time (Helen White) who is now a list MP.
      A Green vote last time of 2838 for a popular local councillor (can’t see who is selected this time).

      It is a tossup. Depends on the ongoing demographic shifts and who the Greens select. But I’d call this as being pretty marginal in Auckland.

  15. RedBaronCV 15

    Okay – clue me in. If Todd/Nikki win does that mean Simon will look to retire from parliament? To add to all the other retirements? And will it push Paula & others down the list places to unwinnable spots? If Simon wins does that mean a likely retirement for Nikki/ Todd as being out of step with the whole caucus and in the case of Nikki no decent list place?

    • Dennis Frank 15.1

      😀 So many questions, so few answers. Remember this is a Schrodinger's Cat situation: the cat is both alive and dead until detection occurs and the wave-function collapses into the new reality. Trotter has a go at it:

      "This is the new reality that the National Opposition has to grasp: that Labour does not need to win the battle of the present, if it has already won the battle of the future."

      Fundamentally misreads the physics, but no problem. Audacious is good. He's gambling that Labour handling of the incoming depression will be sufficiently competent. Not a gamble I would join him on. http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2020/05/does-national-still-need-street.html

    • Sacha 15.2

      Yes.

  16. observer 16

    In an impressive display of party unity …

    National MP calls National MPs nutty and stupid

    • Sacha 16.1

      Never the sharpest knife, that woman.

    • Muttonbird 16.2

      The latest strategy is to blame Simon's and National's poor performance on JA doing daily Covid 19 media briefings.

      Boag, Bridges and now Tolley have all used this excuse.

      What is the Prime Minister supposed to do, stand aside and let Simon do one?

      • KJT 16.2.1

        Just as well for National, they were not more visible.

        The chance to show themselves up as selfish ignorant, chinless wonders, without the usual cosmetic media spin filter, "putting lipstick on the pigs", would have dropped them another 10%.

    • ScottGN 16.3

      Tilley says that Leader of the Opposition is the toughest gig in politics etc and “that you can’t be Mr Nice Guy all of the time.” Hell, if Bridges had just managed to be Mr Nice Guy even some of the time he might not be in this mess.

  17. Dean Reynolds 17

    It's great to see the ruling class disembowling themselves in public

  18. Rae 18

    With bated breath we will wait to see if it is "Beijing Bridges" or just "Beige"

  19. pat 19

    As a (relatively) disinterested observer the National party and NZ would be better served by the further move away from dirty politics by the selection of Muller and Kaye

  20. Corey Humm 20

    Luckily for the Labour party the Nats are idiots who think they have to shore up the right and regional support which backs them regardless. If they had any brains tomorrow they'd make Nikki Kaye leader that'd be a spanner. She'd shore up middle class and centerist and urban votes. Split the middle class feminist vote and is beloved by the LGBT + community and the media who'd be frothing at the mouth.

    She's a young, urban liberal environmentally friendly mp "whose beaten jacinda twice" and a cancer survivor who could announce bold cancer treatment funding. Middle class people who vote based off identitys head would explode some would vote for Nikki just to have a fourth female PM and with Nationals war chest media incompetence i could see Nikki's national running on the same kindness and compassion that Labour will be running on but "let's actually do this , with an experienced team" as other than Grant and Ardern the public thinks labours front bench are incompetent.

    I could see greens being Queen maker and national being so bankrupt ideologically they'd give the greens the welfare and enviromental reforms that labour is too cowardly to agree to and frame it as protecting the middle class Karen's experiencing welfare for the first time imagine if labours reluctance to reform the venomous msd is what did them in ! Haha! Imagine if Nikki beat Ardern because of the greens for the third time ! Ah what an election. The right would vote nats regardless and the right wing of the party just wants to be in govt so they would be quiet and the media would eat it all up.

    Won't happen. National has zero brains

  21. Ovid 21

    As a balding pakeha man, I really feel like my kind are over represented in National's caucus.

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