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:
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 …