Simon Bridges has announced that he can’t do any sort of deal with Winston Peters, but it seems he is happy to consider a deal with the Greens:

National Party leader Simon Bridges has ruled out any post-election deal with NZ First, saying he could not trust NZ First – the first big move of his year.

Bridges said it was clear that a vote for NZ First was a vote for Labour and the Greens, and he wanted voters to have certainty when they cast their votes.

“I don’t believe we can work with NZ First and have a constructive, trusting relationship.

“When National was negotiating in good faith with NZ First after the last election, its leader was suing key National MPs and staff. I don’t trust NZ First and I don’t believe New Zealanders can either.”

“Our decisions will be about what’s best for New Zealanders, not what’s best for NZ First.”

What Bridges is really saying is that he now has no path to victory.

He and his advisors stupidly think that this will galvanise support for National and will see them gain enough votes to govern alone and this means that they will then win the general election. They couldn’t be more wrong.

In fact, the opposite is now likely to occur. National support will slide as they near the election, when people will see that they have no chance of forming a government.

Meanwhile, Winston can make a credible play that since National can’t win alone, (after all John Key couldn’t do it and so Simon Bridges hasn’t a dog’s show either), that the only way to halt the lunatic Greens is by voting for NZ First. I reckon that NZ First will get 12% at the election, at any rate certainly more than they have now or more than National thinks they will get as they seek to crash NZ First out of parliament.

For National’s plan to work, crashing the Greens and NZ First out of parliament, they will need to be on 45% plus in the final week of the election campaign, and ACT on 2% plus. Otherwise, the numbers won’t work.

All these plans are predicated on the fact that NZ First won’t campaign again to act as a hand brake. That seems rather silly to expect.

Then there is the fact that if the numbers fall not quite as Bridges expected, then the only way he could be PM is to renounce his opposition to Peters and beg to be made PM. All he’s done is announce that he has no options.

As the Chinese Donations scandal engulfs Bridges and his party it will be Winston Peters who will be able to righteously declare that his party doesn’t take dirty Chinese money, never has and never will. It will be Winston Peters claiming that he can’t trust Beijing Bridges, but he could work with National if they had a different leader as long as that leader wasn’t Paula Bennett.

The dunces of National have just announced that they have no path to victory. Jacinda Ardern has plenty of paths but I doubt Bridges could sensibly elucidate his reasoning for destroying, what was in reality, his only path to victory.

If the National party strategists are right then the first polls of the year and every poll subsequent should see a National surge. Remember this when you see the opposite happen.

NZ First will have to make some bold plays. I’d pick two things will happen before the end of February. The first will be the spiking of any deal over Ihumatao and the second will be opposing the second tranche of the gun laws. There is no way Winston is going to let ACT take an increase in the polls over gun laws. This will ensure he can credibly say that NZ First is the only party that can curb the excesses of Labour and the Greens. And he will be right.

Every single person who talks to Simon Bridges should ask him just one question: What is your path to victory? He can’t answer it without relying on umpteen ifs, a few buts and some maybes.

The second question to ask should be why hasn’t he ruled out the Greens? Does he trust them more than NZ First?

Winston Peters will be thanking Simon Bridges. Only NZ First can now moderate a Labour-led government. Labour/Greens would be a nightmare. He will say that people should vote NZ First as an insurance policy against a Labour government being driven to the looney left by the Greens.

One thing we can be assured of now is that there is less than a year left in the political career of Simon Bridges.