Wayne Mapp on how Bridges can win

Wayne Mapp writes:

Simon has been cut out for leadership for decades. When he was in his early 20s, I used to joke with him about the Bridges administration, circa 2020. Even at that age it was obvious that Simon had the gift of leadership, a certain charisma and self-confidence. The fact that he did not come from the exclusive suburbs and schools only added to his potential. Most New Zealanders will quickly become comfortable with his very Kiwi accent. For most of us it is who we are.

Arriving in parliament in 2008, Simon used his networking skills to great effect. He made sure that all the senior MPs got to know him. It was often as simple as taking the time in the evening to come forward in the debating chamber and sit with ministers. Making sure they understood him and his aspirations and philosophy. It seems simple in the telling, but it is surprising how few people have the confidence to actually do it. He was a natural for early ministerial promotion. Seeing him do battle with John Campbell on Campbell Live confirmed that he the toughness to hold his ground. Backing the oil and gas industry and its potential for New Zealand showed his mettle. A National Party leader is expected to promote business and not wilt at the first challenge.

Beating a government in just one term is a tall order, but in this instance very possible. New Zealand First is quite likely to go under 5%. In that case it will be a drag race between National (and Act) and Labour and the Greens. Things don’t have to go very wrong with the current government to make that a very competitive race. And should New Zealand First get back in – well, it is opposition for National in any event. New Zealand First will not go with National, at least not in 2020.

I agree that NZ First won’t go with National in 2020. National are fools if they think there is any chance NZ First will go with them. Winston chose to put Labour and Greens into power in 2017 and can’t in 2020 credibly claim he might do differently.

So the challenge for National is to knock NZ First out (actually NZ First will probably do that without assistance) and get more votes on the centre-right than Labour and the Greens.

The thing with Simon is that he backs himself in such a contest. If there were ever an image that showed he is up for it, it was his sheer confidence at the time of the selection of the Speaker when parliament resumed after the election. Simon had all the government MPs scurrying around him to cut a deal. They came to him, he did not go to them.

Being up against Jacinda Ardern almost certainly helped Simon in the leadership contest. He could provide a contrast that Amy could not. And National MPs would have recalled how he and Jacinda had sparred with each other on breakfast TV in 2009 and 2010. A sharp contest but also one conducted with good grace and humour. So he is a safe bet in that regard. He is not going to do anything foolish that will embarrass him or the party.

The challenge is not to attack Jacinda, but to show up the performance doesn’t meet the rhetoric.

All of this will not be enough to win; new policy will be needed. Recognition of the failures of the last National government will be required, especially in housing and the environment. Some of the new policy in these areas will have to really surprise people if National is to be looked at afresh.

Agreed. Fresh policy is needed.

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