Media speculation has started: Who will replace Bill English?

Credit: Luke

When John Key resigned he handed the leadership to his deputy. It would make plenty of sense for English to do the same.

Bennett would be the first Maori National Party leader and their first woman in a while. Her huge personality has immense cut through with the public, who can basically all do a decent impression of the “bowl latte and a panini” line now.

She’s also from West Auckland, the swingiest part of the city, where National will be very keen to stay strong in. If Labour’s policies cause house prices to drop then there could be a whole lot of upset homeowners looking to switch their votes.

Not going to happen.   Who else?  

Bridges is currently the Transport, Communications, and Economic Development Minister, as well as leader of the house.

You don’t get given Transport and Economic Development without showing you’re up to the job, and Bridges has secured billions of dollars from Cabinet, especially for Transport.

Bridges entered Parliament the same year Jacinda Ardern did, is just four years older than her, and would be the first Maori leader of the party.

He is from the right of the party, is quite charismatic, and can be a very effective attack dog in the house – especially up against Winston Peters.

But the National Party will need someone who can appeal to all of New Zealand, not just its own rank and file. And – this could help or hinder him – Bridges has one of the strongest Kiwi accents currently present in Parliament.

Bridges is to the right?   Well, if that doesn’t just show how far left National have drifted.  The boy is as wet as the water between his ears.

Kaye is the same age as Ardern and won close races against her in Auckland Central in 2011 and 2014.

She would definitely be a fresh face for the party, with a much more urban and socially liberal (she calls our abortion laws “archaic”) image than the traditional National politician.

Kaye hasn’t been in Education long but it’s a huge portfolio to be handed, and she managed to shepherd in some major policy while avoiding any Novopay-like screwups.

There wouldn’t be any worry about looking sexist or demeaning when Kaye took on Ardern, and indeed the spectre of 72-year-old Winston Peters attacking a woman three and a half decades his junior might help National.

Also not going to happen.   Got a lot of sympathy for her medical problems, but as a minister she’s simply not a strong enough performer.

We know he wants this. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman ran for leader when Key resigned, promising a move towards the centre for the party.

Coleman has plenty of serious experience as Defence and Health Minister, but is young enough to still have a long career ahead of him.

But Health has been poisoned chalice. Coleman’s reign has seen rebelling DHBs, huge public outcry about mental health services, and continous headlines about underfunded services. Whether or not this is fair is besides the point: Coleman’s public image would need a lot of rehabilitation.

Likely, but the party will want a woman.   God knows how wrong they are, but there you go.  They think a woman will be the antidote to the lipstick on the pig.  The thing is, Labour will start stuffing up and not meeting targets.  Pointing that out isn’t a job that is specific to a gender.

Collins, currently the Minister of Revenue, Energy, and Ethnic Communities, clearly wants it.

She mounted a leadership bid when Key resigned and has huge support among National’s backbench MPs, who lean right.

The party base adore her and she has massive name recognition with the public, although a lot of it isn’t positive.

Collins would pull in plenty of money for the party from the right, and would likely swallow ACT’s vote whole.

But the multiple scandals – which forced her to resign from cabinet – might prove too much to overcome, and senior members of the party likely resent the amount of negative headlines she generated the government.

It will come as no surprise to people that I’d like to see her have a go at it.  She’s capable and tough.  Media love to emphasise her turbulent past, but never point out there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.   They love to keep the dirty sticking even though it has no basis in fact.

I’ll give credit for not suggesting Steve Joyce.  It shows at least some realism from the political journo.  He’s got his uses, but he’s not done the work to be selected as National party leader.

Because, as media continuously seem to forget, caucus elects its own leader.  And if, like Paula Bennett, you’ve left your heel prints on people for the last nine years, you don’t have a hope in hell of being handed the job by your colleagues.

Unless they need a warm body to keep a chair occupied for a bit.   But more about that possibility another day.


– Henry Cooke, Stuff

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

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