NOTE: The videos were missing from this article until 9.40 am due to an editing error. They have now all been restored.

How’d the first week go for Todd Muller‘s new leadership of the National party?

Well, to be blunt, not flash.

Sure he started fine on the Friday with Matthew Hooton‘s nuanced speech prepared for Muller that riffed off his own article that morning.

But it started going backwards from there.

By Monday night the hope that National supporters had that the new wunderkind would deliver them from evil was well and truly dashed as Muller failed, failed and failed again in back to back media appearances.

It appeared for all intents and purposes that National’s caucus had selected their own version of David Shearer.

On paper the man looks great, but dig a little deeper and he is found wanting.

How about the claim he can read a balance sheet?

A rather hollow Matthew Hooton inspired sound bite but with absolutely no basis in fact or legend. He attended Waikato University and graduated with, not a degree in business or economics, rather a Master in Politics and History. Certainly no balance sheet skills there.

He then went to work for National’s own Malcolm Fraser, Jim Bolger, from 1994-1997. There certainly wouldn’t have been much training in that job on balance sheets.

His next stop was for a co-operative, essentially a monopoly called Zespri…as the Industry Relations Manager from 2001 to 2003, and then as GM Corporate and Grower Services from 2003 to 2006. Those aren’t “balance sheet roles”, they are relationship roles, glad handling suppliers and customers.

He was next hand-picked, by his Dad, to be CEO at a company his Dad had started in 1983. Arguably this was his first entry into looking at balance sheets, but the business proccesses at a mature company like Apata were created by someone else, who also likely created the capital to create the business in the first place.

Five years later he swanned off to another monopoly for another public relations role at Fonterra. I don’t know about you but I don’t think the titles Manager of Local Government and Regional Relations or Group Director of Co-operative Affairs have much, if anything to do with balance sheets.

Sure, he’s a corporate warrior, but only pretty much in well-padded gold-plated troughs where people like him earn more than the people who actually produce the raw product for these cozy monopolies.

An entrepreneur he ain’t.

Ironically he nearly couldn’t remember his role at Fonterra. He muffed his lines on that [1:32] in the speech launching the $10,000 subsidy to employers to take on new staff.

He also fluffed the names of his own MPs in what can only be described as a halting and disconnected speech.

The style and substance mirrored his disaster with Jack Tame;

And also on the AM Show.

As I and Danny noted he has a real problem with seagull arms and corporate weasel speak.

If Mr Muller wants to succeed as leader of the National Party, he has some fast learning to do. Keep the arms still. They’re a distraction. Every movement on TV is amplified at least ten fold. Twitch a lip and it looks like a huge scowl. Nod your head and you look like you’re shaking all over. Move your arms to emphasise a point and you look like a sea gull flapping.

His earnest overtalking (often in corporate riddles) in response to every question has to stop too. It will only bring him more grief and strand him in the headlights like a startled rabbit just as he was in this interview. He looked uncomfortable. He looked awkward. He looked as though he was perspiring heavily. And there’s no point looking at Tame and blaming him. If anything, much as it pains me to say it, Jack Tame did a very good job asking the questions and trying to keep the answers on track.

The political ploy of diverting the answers to where you want them to go failed abysmally for Muller and he needed to adapt immediately and drop that technique.

The seagull arms were so obvious that I genuinely thought that would be sorted in five minutes with a competent media trainer. They didn’t and he doesn’t have it under control and that alone is a killer for communication – false sincerity.

Just to show you how bad the flapping hands are for impeding communication, this image is floating around on social media:

The BFD. National’s version of David Shearer? Photoshopped image. Source: Social Media

The similarities withe David Shearer are striking. He is overthinking the answers, which is what people do when they want to give the “right” answers. He needs to think less and stand for something – right or wrong – stand up and kick it to touch.

If you hang around and fumble while you’re deciding what to do, you’re buggered. No one wants to hear how “tremendous” something is, or how “remarkable” someone is. These are not words ordinary people use. Loading up your answers with talk of “learning” and “having discussions” just shows how out of touch you are. They might be fine in a corporate powerpoint presentation but no one will take heart in knowing that “stakeholders” have been consulted and hard decisions are made not by the leader, but “through the lens of caucus”.

Oh. And pointing with your thumb is really, really annoying.

It’s fixable, but his speech yesterday shows they have no interest in fixing it.

Muller needs to just shut up and not make mistakes. The rest will take care of itself, but it’s not been a good week.

He showed he can march backwards faster than an Italian and surrender quicker than a Frenchman over the MAGA hat. He completely bollocksed up his response to the racist attacks regarding Maori by the woke wombles of the left.

There are some smart people around Todd Muller, but they seem to have only had a plan to oust Simon Bridges and not much else.

His fawning supporters are crying for people to give him time, but time is something he doesn’t have. Those same smart people seem to only be starting to develop policy and plans now, with less than 94 days until voting starts. That isn’t good enough.

They could have done all this during the lock down, even done a fair bit of media training with Zoom etc. But it appears they’ve done nothing.

They are talking up a big game, but so far they’ve shown that they aren’t match fit, or even ready for the reserves bench.

Am I too harsh?

No, I don’t think so. Muller made the pitch that he and Nikki Kaye would save the Nats. From the smacked bum face that Nikki Kaye seems to have permanently painted on I don’t think they are even coming close.

The word is that Winston Peters absolutely enjoyed towelling up Nikki Kaye on Thursday. He couldn’t believe his luck when she seemed intent on helping him run his election campaign like that. I think she also found out that contrary to her bevvy of sycophants telling her that she’s great that the reality is that she is badly over-rated.

Question 1 – Hon Nikki Kaye to the Prime Minister from New Zealand Parliament on Vimeo.

National needs to seriously sharpen up as the game has already begun and their named players haven’t yet found their way to the dressing rooms.

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Cam Slater
As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats. Cam has previously voted National, Act and NZ First, he never was ever tempted to vote Labour or Green, but once contemplated voting for the Maori party. They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners. He is fearless in his pursuit of a story. Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.