Hawkesby on Bridges and National’s rather dim future

Kate Hawkesby gives her opinion on the election of Simon Bridges to lead National.

Labour’s been handed its second term.

Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett won’t do it. I don’t see them beating Labour. Although pundits picked Bridges, the surprise was Bennett.

The assumption was she’d be relegated to the back blocks for a while, given she’d had the finger pointed her way over being the achilles heel at the last election. But she’s hung on and hanging on in tough political times is a skill. So kudos to her. Maybe caucus is enamoured with her “zip it sweetie” style.

As for Bridges, he may turn out to be a space saver. I can’t see him going all the way to 2020 with the core support base intact. National’s support base is traditional, it’s old school. It doesn’t care about being “progressive” or buying into “generational shift” rhetoric.  

Nor the Maori schtick rolled out recently. The mention of the word “progressive” is more appalling.

The support base would’ve wanted a Collins or a Joyce, they could’ve perhaps tolerated an Adams … but Bridges and Bennett?

The B Team.

The National Party has done to it’s core support base what TV One did to it’s core audience … ignored them. You ignore the older demographic at your peril. They are faithful, have deep pockets, and institutional knowledge. They’re not inclined to buy into the spin that reality TV beats a good doco. So watch the polls.

Thousands of emails have been sent in response to caucus’s pick. Donations and memberships are being cancelled and large donors and funders to many MPs have told them that there will be no more money forthcoming. National party HQ is in meltdown, sending out boilerplate messages in reply to angry members. On the night he won, instead of focusing on the crisis enveloping the party, Bridges was texting people celebrating his win. Obviously, his president was keeping the bad news from him. Simon Bridges would have gone to bed confident and secure and then, when he raced out to get the papers and sat down at the kitchen table with his scissors and glue stick ready to update his scrapbook, he would have found that the headlines were all bad.

What else does this pick tell us?

Well it tells us the Nats have indeed been spooked by “Jacinda-mania”. They’ve bought into the line that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Well that’s the media’s view. More important than what people like me think is what National’s own members think.

At his first press conference as leader, Bridges threw out words like “ambitious”, “positive”, “future”, “modernise”.

He also threw out “progressive” and “green” and used “fundamentally” a lot.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jacinda should feel flattered. She should also feel assured, she knows Bridges well, she knows his style and that’s an advantage.

National’s pillars – Joyce, Brownlee, Coleman, Collins – where they end up in the reshuffle is key.

Will they stay or go? And where’s Adams in all of this? What about Mitchell? How cohesive is a party with so many bridesmaids who wanted to be bride.

This is a different looking party to what the party faithful are used to.

I’m happy to be wrong. A Bridges-Bennett partnership might fly, and good luck to them if they do.

It will fly like a dead duck.

Here’s one thing they’ve got right – they are a partnership, a team. There are two names and two faces fronting up, unlike this current government which seems to be all about one person, one name, one face. That’s something Labour need to think about moving forward. When Jacinda goes off to have that baby in June, you don’t want a cavernous gap where the media luvvies stare blankly into the abyss wondering who to talk to now that their political Beyonce’s gone.

But back to Bridges and Bennett. Both Westies, both Maori, those are big advantages. If they do go the distance, I look forward to them at least doing the decent thing and turning the crown cars into Holden Kingswoods.

Why would they do that? They are WINOs: Westies in Name Only. Bridges is in love with electric cars and admitted his first car was in fact a Mazda MX-5; no westie credentials there. No self-respecting bogan would admit to owning an MX-5.


-NZ Herald


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