Boss Bridges: 'Tomorrow's man'?

3:59 pm on 27 February 2018

Opinion - In the end, my money was on John Key and a panda, so there's ten bucks I'll never see again, or at least not until the next election.

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Photo: RNZ / Mohamed Hassan

For now, though, the leader of the opposition is Simon Bridges who gets to do the 'worst job in politics' without - unlike the last lot - having to compete with two or three others for airtime ... not counting Judith Collins.

A genial guy, with that touch of JFK youth that never hurts in politics - he has arguably earned more of a tomorrow's man image than he deserves.

A Transport Minister on a bike riding into the carless future, his progressive vibe is reassuringly positive, yet on social matters his voting record suggests an older more conservative type.

Len Brown and Simon Bridge both on bikes

The then Auckland mayor Len Brown, and Mr Bridges in 2015. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

He offers plenty to vote for: energy, positivity, being somewhat well-informed. He's a crown prosecutor who got things done, a minister who got things done, even if he occasionally found himself twisting on the TV back when there was still a John Campbell to hold your feet to the fire.

Where do our political stars come from? Breakfast TV.

This time 10 years ago, the two young guns on the breakfast TV - side-by-side once a week, pitching their party's political take were Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern.

This role would also be taken by a proud westie named Paula. It's recognition that any new politician would envy. Say what you like about Paul Henry, the course of New Zealand politics continues to run downhill from him towards the sea.

Paula Bennett emerged from the two-way deputy vote still standing, still beaming. So what can we expect of the Bridges and Bennett leadership axis; the so-called B Team?

"Today's modern National Party has substantial foundations to build off," the new leader told his first press conference.

They would "continue to modernise" and be "a compelling choice at the next election". There was only the smallest note of doubt in his voice as he made the vows.

More lustily he promised: "Our MPs are in every corner of the country. Expect to see a lot of us."

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett at the leadership announcement this afternoon. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

New Zealanders, he asserted, deserved better than a government that is merely muddling along. In this he has not been alone.

This government may yet come unstuck as it sets out to remake the economy, spend in new ways, recast laws, recalibrate the housing market, and all the other ways set out in their detailed plans. But it's fanciful to the point of risible to suggest they're muddling along without a clue.

Still, in this modern age of Facebook algorithms, that piece of flannel could yet be the start of a march back to power. The future is a strange place to be.

The vote was held in National's caucus room, specially sealed for the occasion. It made it look like a Tardis. Maybe that's what they're looking for: something that suggests that what they have inside is more than you'd expect.

Do they have some strategy to undo their legacy of a dysfunctional housing market and a crippled health system? Do they have a plan for winning back power when there appears to be no visible partner, no mate, to get them the votes they need in the house?

MMP has, after the longest time, finally taken hold in our parliament. The best hope for all those MPs in that sealed room is that we are maybe at the beginning of the end of party politics.

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