I made the point in an earlier article prior to Friday’s leadership challenge that my reservation with Todd Muller was his views on climate change and other matters pertaining to the environment. While I still hold that view, l have to admit to being impressed with his performance since Friday’s election. He has come across well in his media interviews; he presents a straight up and down approach and a communicating style that should connect with voters

An article on Stuff outlining how he and his team organised their leadership bid showed a slick and professional operation. His entire team were working the phones at the outset to get the necessary numbers. Once they were sure they had the numbers they split into two teams; one continuing on the phones shoring up the numbers and the other working on the acceptance speech which was crafted over many hours. Meanwhile, Muller was speaking with all those who were key players including the Board and MPs he needed onside. This shows strategic thinking and attention to detail.

Muller has also made some calls which show good judgement and leadership. His taking on the Small Business role is a clever move. Small businesses are crying out for someone with an understanding of their workings and needs. Muller says “I’m your man”. Another good call was retaining Goldsmith in the finance role. Goldsmith was honest enough to tell Muller he was a Bridges man but despite that Muller recognised his ability and immediately offered him the job. Ensuring he had Collins on side was also smart. The fact she was there at the acceptance speech means she will most likely get a major portfolio.

Muller’s experience in business at both Fonterra and Zespri is good news for business in general – something which is sorely lacking in the Government. I think his election will give credence to the fact that National are better managers of the economy. He needs to be careful with his inclusivity. Revisiting a relationship with NZ First may be a rat National has to swallow. However, it needs to come with a caveat in regard to how post-election negotiations are conducted. The Greens should be no more than a group to talk to on environmental matters, never as a coalition partner. That would be a step too far.

I also have some reservations regarding Nikki Kaye being too centre-left but there are advantages in Muller appointing her. She, like him, is a hard worker and it gives a  conservative rural flavour on the one hand and liberal urban on the other. She may attract some younger swing Labour voters to National.

Overall, a good start. Let’s see what the front bench looks like along with the policies. In Question Time in the House Muller needs to question Ardern on matters pertaining to the economy and in particular business. I’m picking she’ll be lost.

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