Media beat National leadership drums

I’d be surprised if National will be rushing to replace Bill English as their leader.

English did a fairly good job as Prime Minister,  and was credited with a good effort in the election campaign. While National didn’t get to form a government they had easily the most support of any parties. Remarkably National got nearly the same percentage of vote (44.45%) that they got when winning the 2008 election (44.93%).

And they should be mindful of the mess Labour became when Helen Clark resigned soon after losing in 2008. And this election Labour only made it up to 36.89%.

But media seem to have decided to start beating the drums for leadership change. It’s hard to tell if they are trying to create stories, or they are detecting a mood for change in National.

Jo Moir:  Bill English needs to be more visible if he’s serious about staying on as leader

There’s been a big hole where the Opposition leader is meant to be this week. Bill English has gone AWOL.

Parliament was in recess this week so it’s perfectly normal to only see the Government ministers about the precinct but this is the time for the Opposition to shine. So where exactly is their leader?

Recess weeks in the press gallery are a welcome relief from the chaos of the House sitting but when it comes to finding stories, one can be left scraping the barrel.

That may answer one question – a vacuum means looking for story.

That’s why Opposition MPs are a political journalist’s best friend in recess – they desperately want the air time and they know the media are just as desperate for a story to run.

But where’s Bill?

According to his office it’s been business as usual for the most part – he had some family time overseas at the start of the week but has been well and truly back since Tuesday.

English says he’s sticking it out with National after failing to be elected prime minister for the second time in his political career.

English ran the campaign of his life and, for now, most National MPs think he’s the right man for the job – they just resent Winston Peters for not seeing it the same way they do.

But if English is serious about sticking it out for the term then he needs to act like he wants to be here.

English has had a very busy last 12 months. He took over the role of Prime Minister in December last year, had to run the country while reinventing the leadership of National, then ran a good campaign and had to follow that with post-election negotiations.

Taking some time out from the media spotlight may be a wise move at this stage. English needs to wotk out the right balance between holding the Government to account, but looking like a Prime Minister in waiting. He will have bigger priorities than filling columns for journalists in slow weeks.

MPs are back at Parliament next week for the final four-week slog into Christmas as the Government pushes to get through its 100-day plan.

While the National Party has got very good at singing from the same song sheet and showing a united front over its leader, English had better front up and be heard next week unless he wants to fight for his political survival once again.

There are sometimes more important things to do than hitting the headlines.

Jenna Lynch at Newshub has used the lull to go into more hard out speculation – Simon Bridges winning race to be next National leader

Simon Bridges has made a flying start in the race to be the next leader of the National Party.

The political reality is that Bill English is unlikely to last the full term unless the coalition Government falls apart.

We saw the first sign this week that he may bail out. He has been absent from the public eye, prompting the question “Where’s Bill?”, and the follow up: “Who is next in line?”.

So, while we don’t know the distance, a race is on, and Simon Bridges has put himself well in front.

He had an aggressive start to this Parliamentary term, turning the House upside down and showing Labour who is boss on the opening day.

The symbolism of the show of force he exerted by making the Government question its numbers while trying to do a procedural election of a Speaker is that he is ready to take them on.

Bridges was trying to find his way in his new role of Shadow Leader of the House. I thought his performance was very mixed.

Bridges entered the race for Deputy, and in doing so represented the next generation and made some good political mates on National’s backbench.

Just 12 months later he’s found himself on the Opposition benches and has launched a series of blistering attacks on the new Government, whether in the House, through brutally worded press releases or by baiting Ministers on social media.

I don’t think Bridges has looked suitable for leadership in this. He is looking more like the chief opposition stirrer, leaving the leader to look above the fray.

Of course, Bridges is not the only option for a successor to English.

  • Judith Collins – Remains a total threat, performing incredibly in Opposition. She made her intentions clear at the first opportunity, running in the 2016 leadership race. It was clear she would not win when John Key bowed out, but she can never be ruled out.
  • Amy Adams – The former Justice Minister has already landed some solid strikes on the new Government and has been given portfolios that will continue to hit where it hurts – particularly Workplace Relations. Her move on Paid Parental Leave was a masterstroke.
  • Paula Bennett – The job seemed hers a while ago, but at the moment, the desire doesn’t seem to be there. She seems happy taking a back seat after losing the Deputy Prime Minister spot.
  • Nikki Kaye – Represents the future and is National’s face of Auckland. She’s also beaten Jacinda Ardern twice in Auckland Central. If not leader, she could play Deputy to Bridges.
  • Steven Joyce – He only knows Parliament as a Cabinet Minister, so a smart bet would be that he wants to quit rather than languish on the Opposition benches, however a question mark hangs over whether he wants to be leader. He rose rapidly through the ranks and has done pretty much everything but.

While there are other options, none appear to stack up against Bridges.

Really? If Bridges took over from English now I think National would be at real risk of sinking in the polls, allowing Labour to get established as the most popular party.

I think that Englisdh has to hold up the fort for a year or so at least, and then evaluate his future then.

But what would I know, I haven’t been in Parliament in a slow news week looking for stories.


  1. Corky

     /  November 25, 2017

    Yep, now’s the chance for National to tell media they will decide the next National leader; not media. I think media need reminding a leader of the opposition is in reality surplus to their requirements unless something is going wrong with the opposition party.

    Media should spend downtime doing better research into more important things. Lets see: climate change scams. The push to remove hard currency from circulation. Why Dame Susan Devoy still has a job. And is her job necessary?

  2. fairly good, almost honest, mostly legal

  3. Trevors_elbow

     /  November 25, 2017

    Oh look SQIRRELL!

    Labour are making mess after steaming mess so out pop the media boosters with a National leadership trouble meme.

    H1 and H2 working the old school phone tree just like its 2001…..

    Got to admire the media campaign Labour have run last 18 odd minths… position Jacinda via womans mags targeting the female vote … undermine Little via leaked poor polls…. swapsies late in the piece and position Jacinda as the futire but avoid real scrutiny… Invent Jacindamania… beautifully conceived and executed….

    National are strong. The contenders know they need to beat the Coalition before positioning for leadership.

    A media beat up…

    • duperez

       /  November 25, 2017

      Oh look SQIRRELL?

      Then using a cheap line like, “H1 and H2 working the old school phone tree just like its 2001?”

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  November 25, 2017

        No squirrel there referring to H squared as you well know. They had a effective phone tree to move “info” to places it could do most damage, those contacts still mostly in place and both are back in the central command… so its highly likely to be humming again.

        So yeah, nah Dupe… the squirrel is the bs Bill is missing meme…. distracting from the bumbling, stumbling, back tracking Labour lead government that Winston has put in place

        • robertguyton

           /  November 25, 2017

          “Stumbling and bumbling” their way to 9+ years of Government.
          Btw, where is Bill?

          • Gezza

             /  November 25, 2017

            Too early to say whether they’ll be reelected. They made a lot of promises they have to deliver on & Labour & NZ have no doubt each got a chunk of voters who feel betrayed.

    • Fight4NZ

       /  November 25, 2017

      That theory would make your moonlanding skeptic proud.

  4. Blazer

     /  November 25, 2017

    Bridges and Bennett would be a good combo…to ensure National stays in..opposition.

    • Corky

       /  November 25, 2017

      National are always keeping abreast of things, Blazer.

      • Blazer

         /  November 25, 2017

        [Deleted. Auto moderation next time, too many warnings already.PG]

        • Corky

           /  November 25, 2017

          Please watch personal denigration, Blazer. Yes, she has gone down in my estimations recently. But don’t count her out.

  5. alloytoo

     /  November 25, 2017

    So, National are playing a smart game, positivity, strategic opposition, and basically making the government look incompetent (admittedly not hard), as a result the Labour PR department (NZH and Stuff) can only target Bill who’s quietly pulling these strings in the back ground. It’s a good sign, Labour are basically panicking already

    • Blazer

       /  November 25, 2017


      • Trevors_elbow

         /  November 25, 2017

        Anything constructive to say Bol… or are you just burbling?

        • robertguyton

           /  November 25, 2017

          “stumbling and bumbling” is constructive ???
          Or are you just…burbling?

    • Fight4NZ

       /  November 25, 2017

      Yes no sign at all of petty sore loser behaviour from a bunch of pisspants at all.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 25, 2017

    Now is the time for National to put the screws on the Lefty journalists and leave them out in the cold begging for scraps while they feed their friends.

  7. Gezza

     /  November 25, 2017

    Bill can’t sell himself to the public as a smart, passionate, aggressive Opposition leader because it’s not who he is. His pitch this last time round was as the experienced and competent Manager. Twice failing to become PM kills his chances of remaining leader. Whoever can pull off the best smart, passionate, aggressive persona will be National’s leader at the next election. It will have to be someone younger to counter Jacinda’s youth & vigour factor. I think they’ll choose a male. It won’t be Steven. Nobody really ever believes him. He’s a car salesman. I don’t know if Bridges will end up being the next leader but they were clearly positioning him for it.

    It’s a pretty blatant effort by the media to engineer a change.

    • unitedtribes2

       /  November 25, 2017

      Perhaps Steven has got a younger brother somewhere. I no he’s not popular with everyone but he sure dose push my buttons

    • Trevors_elbow

       /  November 25, 2017

      Chris Bishop. Leaves Bridges as a bridge to nowhere….

  8. PDB

     /  November 25, 2017

    Bridges is a disaster with a personality even his mother would struggle to like. Collins, Joyce and Bennett are not the future.

    Timing is everything – English should hang in there for a year and a bit and hand-over to Kaye when the timing is right.

    • phantom snowflake

       /  November 25, 2017

      Spot on. We’re fortunate to have access to the insights of a National Party insider! For deputy, the obvious counterbalance to Nikki Kaye would be a male, rural, South Island MP. Any thoughts as to contenders?

  9. Zedd

     /  November 25, 2017

    look out Judith’s sharpening her ‘knives’ again !

    Bridges might think he is a ‘leader in waiting’ but he has the personality of a sledgehammer.. not a political leader

    then again there are others in the wings..
    do the Natz really want to see English ‘lead them’ to another defeat in 2020 ? not likely.. his days are numbered sez 1 😀

    • Corky

       /  November 25, 2017

      I think Pete has the right idea, [Deleted, wrong use of name]. Bed National down in opposition and when the media least expect it, get Bill to stand down. However, there is one problem. For National to win the next election, a clear message must be sent to voters that Bill will do another three years as finance minister. If he decides to retire at the next election, National have a problem. English has been that safe set of hands voters vote for.

      • Zedd

         /  November 25, 2017

        methinks Bill will be gone by lunchtime (before mid-term 2018/19). Thats IF they intend to seriously make this a ‘one-term’ Govt. as they seen to be implying !? :/

  10. David

     /  November 25, 2017

    Fake news.