Let me make it clear, I have never been a supporter of the Bridges/Bennett leadership of National. My personal preference has always been Judith Collins however, I think the hit job mounted against Bridges was unreasonable. Only three months ago National was polling at 43% whilst Labour was on 42%. Even though Bridges’ rating as preferred prime minister was in single figures, the party itself was holding its own. Remember this was after the Ardern love fest following Christchurch. So brand Ardern was well established but not to the extent that moves the polls significantly. The electorate was not comfortable with the performance of Labour as its deeds never matched its rhetoric.
Through the COVID-19 phase, I believe David Seymour was the most effective opposition. He exposed several weaknesses in Labour’s handling of the pandemic. Where did it get him? The Feb 2020 poll had Act at 1.8%, and Thursday night it reached 2%, a minimal positive move. The handbrake, New Zealand First, has been selective in its support of Labour’s handling of the pandemic. The Feb 2020 poll had NZF at 3.6%, Thursday night it was reduced to 3%. Even the Green Party who were at 5.6% in February fell to 4.7% in last night polls. And we all know National’s result, down from 43.3% in Feb to 29% Thursday night. All parties suffered a hit in last nights poll except Act which barely moved into positive territory.
It is so glaringly obvious why. Politics is a contest of ideology, policies and personalities but can only function effectively when the podium is fairly shared by all contestants. When one party has two months of saturation coverage, led by a charismatic leader, regardless of the authenticity of that person, there is no contest.
Simon Bridges never had a show. He was the same person who only three months ago was leading the highest polling party. It was not of his making that the party’s support collapsed. We don’t like to admit it, but Labour has milked the COVID-19 phase of its tenure brilliantly. It has effectively closed down all opposition, helped by a compliant media. I strongly believe no individual could have mounted a persuasive opposition under these circumstances. Unfortunately for Simon Bridges, he has been targeted as the fall guy and for that reason, I had hoped that he would have pulled through on Friday. Politics is a tough gig but even in this environment, I wanted to see a fair contest. Bridges has been shafted. The decision to replace him should have been made based on his merit not as a victim of COVID-19.
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