Yes Tracy, I think he is a dead man walking

Tracy Watkins wonders if Simon Bridges is a dead man walking? Quote:

Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges used to do a breakfast TV slot together called The Young Guns. They were yin and yang: Bridges an MP on the rise in a popular Government, Ardern the underdog from the struggling Labour Party.

Their stars have reversed, but they are still yin and yang.  Ardern is the wind under Labour’s wings. It’s not  much of an exaggeration to say that, without her, this Government would be in desperate trouble right now. She has made its bumbling and a string of disasters survivable.  She is at the height of her powers.

Bridges’ position is far less secure. Brand National is the wind beneath his wings, the party holding its support despite him, rather than because of him.

That puts Bridges in a particularly precarious position. If a view takes root that he is adding nothing to brand National, he becomes expendable, in a way that Ardern is not. End quote.

Bridges personal poll ratings are abysmal. Both Labour and National’s numbers for Bridges are subterranean. Quote:

He has only one ace card: disunity is toxic. But that card holds its power only for as long as National’s support holds up. So Bridges can’t afford to squander any of the goodwill or legacy that has kept National’s poll ratings in the mid to high 40s for much of the past decade. End quote.

The moment National’s numbers slump then Bridges is a corpse. Quote:

Which is why the stakes are higher than usual over his ‘ handling of an inquiry into his leaked travel expenses – and why Wednesday’s ill-judged press conference to discuss the abrupt departure of one of his MPs, Jami-Lee Ross, on extended sick leave was a disaster for him.

The press conference raised more questions than answers, and if fingers weren’t being pointed at Ross before the press conference as the leaker, they were afterwards. End quote.

It was stupidly handled by Bridges. I suspect he called the press conference for another reason and then had to change tack at the last minute after being outwitted by Jami-Lee Ross. Quote:

Bridges judgment in dragging out the leak story is being called into question, and there have been the usual flurry of headlines about his leadership.

If the culprit is outed next week when the inquiry reports back, it could easily blow up in his face.

Even without that, there would be a long list of reasons to assume Bridges is a dead man walking. End quote.

A long, long list. Quote:

His personal poll ratings are low, and his favourability ratings (anecdotally at least) are said to be heading south. He is struggling to connect with voters, while up against a popular leader who is still in her honeymoon period. End quote.

Sensible journalists will ask Bridges if his favourables are in the negative 20s. When he says no the smarter journalists will ask what they are then. No one ever had to ask Key what his favourables were…they were always positive. Quote:

He has been handed the poisoned chalice of leading National in opposition after nine successful years in government, and is being asked to fill the very big shoes of Sir John Key and Sir Bill English.

There is a very long line of ambitious politicians at his back whose seats in Parliament are reliant on his performance. They will turn on him in an instant if he puts their livelihoods under threat.

None of those problems is insurmountable or exceptional, though history would suggest they should be. End quote.

He’s no John Key. He’s a journeyman, with no plan. He think he can just rock up and win. He’s wrong. Quote:

We all know it is rare for governments to be voted out after just one term. And the flipside of that coin is that it is not unusual for a new Opposition party to churn through several leaders before finding one who can lead it back into power.

In other words, everything we know about politics suggests that, if Bridges had been serious about being the next prime minister, he should have waited this one out. End quote.

He wanted it all and will likely get nothing at all. Quote:

And Bridges has one very big ace up his sleeve. Sustained by their deep sense of betrayal by Winston Peters, National voters are proving to be a loyal bunch.

There is a dearth of independent polling these days – polls are expensive and traditional media companies are strapped for cash – so we can only go by anecdotal (and highly partisan) accounts of internal party polls.

But the constant seems to be that National’s support hasn’t really shifted around much since the election.

That is staggering for a party that has just been swept out of power after nine years. It is even more staggering given Bridges’ apparent lack of connection with voters.  The message is getting cut-through, even if Bridges can’t. End quote.

National wasn’t swept from power. That is wishful thinking on Labour’s part and the media. Quote:

And there are other factors in his ‘ favour. This Government is the sum of three parts, and those parts do not always sit easily together.

Meanwhile, Ardern’s popularity may not  be enough  to rise above her Government’s calamities for ever. Ministerial incompetence and scandal are survivable, but voters have to believe that’s where the rot stops, and there is an iron hand at the top.

But Ardern has a deputy prime minister, in Winston Peters, whose survival strategy appears to rest on cannibalising some of Labour’s vote by undermining her authority.

Ardern’s success in New York re-established her as in charge – but NZ First’s need for oxygen won’t go away. End quote.

NZ First has just had a week of pretty good coverage over their “no bad wogs” policy. Quote:

The economy, meanwhile, has remained in Labour’s favour. But there are some big election-year timebombs ticking away: a possible capital gains tax, a health sector shakeup, and law and order.

Many of these things will play to National’s strengths. End quote.

And housing. Anything Phil Twyford touches is going to be a disaster. Quote:

So Bridges may not be a dead man walking – yet.

His lack of cut-through might not matter yet either. But it will in 2020, when National will need something more – apart from a credible coalition partner, of which it still has none.

It will need a leader who can sell an aspirational vision. 

That was the difference between Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern. And the difference was huge – nearly 20 points in the polls.

That’s what Bridges has to find between now and the election, or he really will be a dead man walking. End quote.

There is a lot of water to go under the bridge yet on the leak scandal. I don’t think that Bridges will survive that now.


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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.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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