Good summary on Bridges

Stuff has a story on the leadership of Simon Bridges and I think it is pretty fair covering the highlights and lowlights. One extract:

But Bridges fought back brilliantly at a time the Government would usually take all the attention. Labour had been talking up its 2019 budget for yonks. It was a “Wellbeing Budget” — billed as a new way of doing Government finances — shifting the focus away from blunt metrics like GDP a more rounded view of spending in areas that improved peoples’ wellbeing. 

The Opposition usually disappears around budget time, left responding to huge announcements. Not so for the vaunted Wellbeing budget. A staffer spotted that bits of the budget were easily accessible using a search bar on the Treasury website. National used this vulnerability to glean vast amounts of secret budget information. 

Bridges sent the budget to the press gallery during the middle of the prime minister’s Tuesday morning caucus media run. The Government was flustered. Reporters read lines of the budget to Ardern from their phones.

The saga played out until National finally revealed how it had obtained the information. In the maelstrom, Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf embarrassed himself by alleging the breach was a “hack”.

That particular episode drove a wedge between the Treasury and the Finance Minister during a week which should have been a career highlight for both. It played to Bridges’ strengths: he leveraged a simple vulnerability in Treasury’s website into a massive hit on the Government’s biggest day of the year. 

National began polling well — very well. It bested Labour in every single One News/Colmar Brunton Poll between the hack and this week.

The 2019 polls reflected a good year for Bridges. In April, he faced down a challenge from Judith Collins, who had been making an unsubtle pitch for the leadership on and off for months. Bridges knew she didn’t have the numbers, and had no compunction telling her so. The challenge was put to bed before it even eventuated and the Bridges-Collins psychodrama began a twelve-month hiatus.

Bridges was helped by repeated Government mistakes. The year began with the utter collapse of Labour’s flagship housing policy KiwiBuild — it ended with the news that its cornerstone transport policy, light rail in Auckland, was on the rocks as well.


2020 began looking even better for Bridges. The hype around Ardern’s Christchurch response had mostly faded. He was making fewer missteps in media appearances — no longer umming and ahhing when asked if he would consider lowering the minimum wage for example, or making jokes about the prime minister’s newborn child. The talk of challenges to his leadership were long gone, with Collins much quieter after having lost Twyford as an opponent.

In February, he made a bold call his caucus mostly agreed with: ruling out working with NZ First after the election. The public seemed to like this move and in two consecutive polls they finally supported his party and ACT to a degree where it could govern.

There were definitely things Simon got wrong, but there was also a hell of a lot he got right.

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