Young says Bridges off to a solid start

Audrey Young writes:

There was a time when Leader of the Opposition used to be called the worst job in politics.

That was before Simon Bridges got it.

There hasn’t been a happier Opposition Leader.

The Government has had three miserable weeks out of the past four, mired in misfortune of its own making, including ministerial mishaps involving Clare Curran and Shane Jones, positioning on Russia, and hasty transport announcements.

It is unusual to have an Opposition Leader so happy and a PM so clearly unhappy.

But the lesson of the past few weeks is clear: the Opposition is capable of capitalising on its weaknesses and that constitutes a very successful start for Bridges.

It was one thing for Bill English to say there has never been a stronger Opposition- numerically he was right.

It is quite another to actually function strongly or competently. But it has, and from the top.

It has been a fairly seamless transition for Bridges who has been in job only 47 days after a five-way contest for the job.

Bridges has benefited from low expectations. Most observers are surprised that he has taken to the job so confidently.

It doesn’t mean he will be able to compete with Ardern for popularity. He is a more polarising figure.

Justin Trudeau was very popular also.

His biggest challenge is not to be liked but to be noticed by voters, and then to present himself as a strong alternative.

Fortuitously, two of the Government’s biggest issues of the day, roads and oil and gas, Bridges knows backwards as a former Transport Minister and former Energy Minister.

And agree or disagree with him, they have given him a platform to speak with some knowledge and authority.

Both issues will have a long running life in the term of this Government and both are defining issues.

Not least they will both be crucial to National’s bid to undermine New Zealand First as self-proclaimed champions of the regions.

I think NZ First have shown themselves to be the Judas’ of the regions.

In the days leading up to Monday’s press conference, both had variously suggested former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman had been responsible for leaky buildings at Middlemore and that desperate health boards had been using their capital expenditure on operational expenditure (pretty much a sackable offence).

In the absence of any supporting facts, Ardern decided to call the situation at Middlemore “emblematic,” a label which seems to mean it can still be used for political purposes even if it is not true.


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