Claire Trevett reports:
National Party MP Simon Bridges is quitting politics and will step down as an MP in the next few weeks.
In an exclusive interview with the NZ Herald ahead of that announcement, he said he made his final decision over the last week after thinking about it for some time.
It was the right time to look at other opportunities for him.
It is the first big surprise for new leader Christopher Luxon less than four months after he took over as leader, giving Bridges the third ranking in his caucus and the critical finance portfolio.
Bridges said it was not because of his failed attempt to secure the party leadership again last year and he believed the party stood a good chance of winning the election in 2023 under Christopher Luxon's leadership.
“Life moves on. I leave National in great heart and with momentum for the first time in a while. I think Chris Luxon will make a great Prime minister.”
This is a surprise and a blow for National. Simon was doing a great job as Finance Spokesperson.
His kids are at an age where you want to be more in their lives, and I suspect this was a major factor. So good on him for deciding to put family first.
His decision poses two issues for National – a reshuffle and a byelection.
In terms of the reshuffle, there are a number of options. One is to put Nicola Willis into Finance (she used to be on FEC and did an excellent job there). You could then move Chris Bishop into housing and perhaps have Shane Reti take over Covid-19, merging it into his health portfolio. You could also look at MPs like Bishop or Woodhouse for Finance also.
I suspect National will have a few people interested in standing in the by-election. Labour does have a List MP in the seat, so National shouldn't take anything for granted.
I highly recommend people read Simon's recent book called National Identity. The chapters around race and identity are incredibly insightful, as identity politics becomes totemic for so many people.