Today we may have a new leader of the National party. I have no idea who it might be, although I hope it is not Simon Bridges. Don’t get me wrong; I think Simon has great potential as a competent minister of something, but he has already had a go at the leadership and failed. I will admit, it wasn’t entirely his fault. National’s polling was going well until COVID hit. But that’s just the luck of the draw and what the National party needs right now is someone not tainted by all the backstabbing and scandals that have gone on over the past 4 years. They really do need a new broom.

Whoever it is will probably enjoy a bit of a honeymoon period with the media, which he (or she) will do well to make the best of, because it will not last. It was absolutely farcical to see Tova O’Brien outwardly supporting Simon Bridges’ proposed axing of Judith Collins when she had been so caustic towards him when he was the leader. Her vitriol was so bad that she sounded like a scorned lover. But it was nothing of the sort; it was merely the fact that she will do absolutely everything she can to bring down the National party leader, whoever it is.

The good news about Tova is that she is moving to breakfast radio in the new year, so will not be on our screens so much. That may provide the new leader with some relief, but Tova is not alone in wanting to discredit anyone in the National party. The entire baying mob that is the press gallery these days, with one or two exceptions, sing from the same song sheet designed to keep their beloved Jacinda in power. The fact that they receive funding to keep them sweet only exacerbates the problem. They used to tear Simon Bridges to strips just for asking legitimate questions about the government’s handling of COVID. It was one of the things that led to his demise.

It will start, as it did with Todd Muller, with the lack of brown faces on the front bench, completely ignoring the fact that Simon Bridges had been the leader and no one commented on his Maoriness. He is, as Willie Jackson pointed out, the ‘wrong type’ of Maori. National will never be able to win on this… even though Labour has a white woman as leader, a white man as deputy and another white man leading the COVID response. It is always okay when the left do it.

These things don’t matter much to voters, but the media will make a meal out of it anyway, whatever happens. Voters want the best person for the job. They also want to see the end of all the infighting, a credible leader who communicates well and probably some new faces on the front bench. It is a shame that National had to go through two purges to get to where they are, but they have to get it right this time. The alternative is facing political oblivion for some time to come.

Image credit The BFD.

I had a fascinating conversation with a member of the local Labour party yesterday. She wants Mark Mitchell as the leader because he is the most ‘hopeless’ of the contenders, (according to her). The really interesting part of the conversation was her claim that, at a time when people are sick of lockdowns, and the government is failing on so many fronts, she is happy because their polling has held up quite well. That should be no surprise to anyone not wearing red-tinted spectacles. Her mistake is in assuming that the infighting in the National party has had nothing to do with its polling. Of course, it has. It was partly responsible for the disastrous election result last year. This is why the new leader absolutely has to be untouched by all of that. Whoever it is will need to be able to handle a very negative press mob right from the start. I only hope that the contenders for leader don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only happened to Judith Collins and that they will be OK. They won’t. The ‘no one but Jacinda’ attack posse will give whoever it is a very hard time: possibly within days of becoming the leader.

My choice, in a perfect world, would be Shane Reti, but I am not sure he’s tough enough to face the onslaught. He comes across as a thoroughly decent man. Politics could do with a few decent people; there are very few of them there at the moment, but such is the nature of the game. But I fear that the media pack would chew him up and spit him out quite quickly, and I would hate to see that. So maybe he is not the best choice for the role.

If National gets this right, I am confident that they will soon see a significant lift in their polling. The country is desperate for an option other than this despotic government. Never in my lifetime have I seen protests like the ones that we see today. The right person will soon recover lost voters who have gone to ACT, and disgruntled voters with regret for voting Labour last time. There could be another landslide, this time in a direction that we all want to see.

My only problem is a simple one. I really liked the look of Todd Muller… for about 24 hours. I am wary of anyone who takes the role getting blindsided fairly quickly, mainly by an out-of-control media. The right person will be able to handle it. The trouble is… I don’t know who the ‘right’ person for the job actually is. Do you?

Whoever Wins, Make It Work


Ex-pat from the north of England, living in NZ since the 1980s, I consider myself a Kiwi through and through, but sometimes, particularly at the moment with Brexit, I hear the call from home. I believe...