Media intent on popularity politics dump on Bridges

Political journalists are focussing on Simon Bridges – on how well he is doing as Leader of the Opposition, and whether there is someone in the National caucus who could do better. With National polling very well it would be odd for them to dump their leader, but when in Opposition there will always be MPs looking for an opportunity to step up into the top job.

Audrey Young (NZH): Can National’s strong performance survive the strong death-wish for Bridges?

Who wishes political death on Bridges apart from media wanting some headline stories?

…it is extraordinary that a party on 46 per cent in last Sunday’s 1 News Colmar Brunton poll should be ending the year being subject to speculation about who is going to replace the person who got them to 46.

Who is doing the speculating? Journalists. Why?

Under Sunday’s poll result, National was literally one point away from having the numbers to govern. That is a stunning result for an unpopular leader.

But the political death-wish for Bridges is so strong, especially among some media, that one colleague declared that National’s 41 per cent in the party-commissioned poll was the “real” rating, not 46 per cent.

Young admits that it’s ‘some media’ wishing for a political funeral to report on. Perhaps they want someone more celebrity-like to report on.

The notion that a party could be polling high while its leader is polling as low as 7 per cent is unusual, so unusual that there seems to be a move to “correct” it.

If Bridges is finally forced to step down before the 2020 election, it won’t be because of the large gap between the party and leader but because the campaign against him has forced down the party vote.

After a hiatus, the campaign against Bridges has resumed.

It certainly looks like someone or some people are feeding the media morsels to try to dump on Bridges. And journalists like to feast on leaks, especially ones they get ‘exclusively’.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): National’s dilemma – can someone do better than Bridges?

Is it a dilemma for National? Or do journalists have a dilemma over who to promote as an alternative leader? Do they want someone more colourful (or at least less bland) than Bridges?

I haven’t seen any media consider how someone like Bridges might perform as a potential Prime Minister. Capability for the job seems to be unimportant compared to reporting either scandal or celebrity.

After an extraordinary, and turbulent, few months there are more brutal calculations to be made – such as whether Simon Bridges can carry them back into power. And if the answer is no – which seems to be the growing consensus – can anyone else do better.

Growing consensus amongst whom? Journalists? It shouldn’t be up to them to make decisions on future political prospects and dump on those they judge to be not up to their requirements.

This is what Bridges’ MPs will be weighing up between now and February.

Some opposition MPs will no doubt always be on the lookout for ways of advancing their political careers, and a few will no doubt think they could be doing better than Bridges. That’s normal with politicians with egos and ambition.

Does it matter if Bridges isn’t popular?

Yes of course. Politics is a popularity contest, after all.

I’m alarmed by that. Of course popularity matters, to an extent.

But isn’t politics supposed to be a contest of ideas, a contest of policies that will affect the well being of the nation and of the people?

Isn’t competence important?

Have journalists been caught up too much in conducting popularity contests – where their popularity with politicians in order to be fed stories (that politicians want to promote) is what matters, and where independent analysis and investigation doesn’t matter any more?

The job of Opposition is of course to oppose. But doing so while giving hope that you offer something better? That’s the hard bit.

Key nailed it. Ardern nailed it. Bridges is running out of time to nail it.

That’s nonsense. Bridges has another year at least to ‘nail it’ (as a potential Prime Minister) – except his problem right now seems to be not his lack of nailing it, but rather getting a hammering from media who seem to have dumped on Bridges.

Is the real problem here that Bridges is not popular amongst political journalists? Do they prefer destabilising leaks – they certainly seem to be encouraging them, if not be design by their actions – more than the honest toil of someone trying to lead the Opposition?

When Bridges became leader it was assumed the chances of his making it to the election were slim. It’s the way the cycle works. But those chances are getting slimmer all the time.

That’s alarming crap – alarming because journalists seem to be trying to build a case for slimming Bridges chances nearly two years before the next election.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in that time. Personally I’m not a fan of Bridges, but I’m less of a fan of journalists trying to influence what may happen in party leadership. I think that’s a far bigger problem than who is leader of a party not in Government.



  1. Gezza

     /  December 9, 2018

    Audrey, Tracy, Katie, Jess, Jacinda – “us girls stick together”?

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 9, 2018

    Most journalists are far too incompetent to judge competence and polls do the job of judging popularity for them so it is an easy and lazy write.

  3. David

     /  December 9, 2018

    Polling at 46% is a pretty good result I think Gezza, explanation makes sense. There are plenty more meaty stories our lazy journalists could go after but at the moment it seems they all just follow their twitter feeds thinking that is what the country is interested in.

    • Gezza

       /  December 9, 2018

      Dunno what the story’s about, but there’s a full cover head and shoulderz of a white teeth smiling Jacinda on the Woman’s Weekly dairy poster today. Jacs has go the female vote sewn up for next time.

      • Gezza

         /  December 9, 2018

        fk chrome’s slow to cancel.


      • Gezza

         /  December 9, 2018

        The problem is not only that lots of young women see her magazine coverage posters all around the place and are still young and silly and influenced by celebrity pics, and will want to be just like her. But, the way things are these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few young men out there who will see her and want to be just like her too. o_O

        • PartisanZ

           /  December 9, 2018

          You’re so right Gezza … Most young women and some young men are just *silly* …

          We let these people vote!?

          • Gezza

             /  December 9, 2018

            Has to be done i’m afraid. They’re old enuf to join the army, go overseas and kill people. Last thing you want to do with some of them is provoke any before they’ve gone overseas. They’re not like you PZ. Apparently they don’t have any self-discipline.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  December 9, 2018

              But a large % of young ones don’t vote.

            • Gezza

               /  December 9, 2018

              It will be interesting to see what the voting stats show next time though. Jacs pitches directly at the young voters. So have other past pollies but Jacs probably connects with them better.

  4. PartisanZ

     /  December 9, 2018

    If they can manufacture “lazy journalism” and fake news which we still buy – and waste our time and energy reading and commenting upon – the point is proven that production or ‘supply’ is not demand-driven at all, but a contrivance of what manufacturers, or in this case the corporate-political elites who control the media, want us to consume …

    Danger, Danger Will Robinson … Disconnect! Disconnect!! Capitalist Disconnect!

    Orthodox economics short-curcuit!!! Democracy failure imminent!

    Without knowing it Alan makes the most important point: What we need are ways of measuring political ‘competence’ and of enforcing action against incompetence … We’ve got two chances of agreeing on criteria for that … None and Fuck All …

    National’s current popularity is disengaged from their own leadership, which is not an entirely unusual situation IMHO … Key, English …

  5. Strong For Life

     /  December 9, 2018

    Why are media concentrating on the Opposition? Who cares about them? There is a smorgasbord of calamities in the ruling coalition, including KiwiBuild, Claire Curran, bullying demoted MP, Sroubek debacle, looming AirNZ strike and a partisan Speaker Mallard to name a few.

    Why are MMS ignoring these issues and instead producing fluff pieces about the so-called First Man loading Baby Neve into a carseat for the first time. Who cares?

    Do your job media… concentrate on the ruling coalition they are the ones running the country. Hold them to account not the opposition.

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 9, 2018

      And, of course, when National led the government the media were all against them too …

      Nothing to see here folks … only Right-Wing paranoid delusions …

      Should be easy to quantify if not qualify … Why doesn’t someone tally up the pro-and-con articles?

      Naturally I believe any statistics I read …

  6. duperez

     /  December 9, 2018

    Is it as valid for some media to wish for a political funeral to report on as it is for politically motivated to wish for economic and social disaster to happen?

    • Gezza

       /  December 9, 2018

      I need to think about this one. I’ll get back to you.

      • Gezza

         /  December 9, 2018

        No. Unless the media are also publicising their wish for economic and social disaster to happen. Apart from Mike Hosking – who else were you thinking of there?

  7. duperez

     /  December 9, 2018

    Hadn’t thought of anyone in particular like Hosking. Surely you agree that there are some who go online every day hoping to see things like unemployment figures up, balance of payment figures down the tubes, more homelessness, unions striking, issues in getting prompt attention in hospitals and so on. The Michelle Boag syndrome if you like.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  December 9, 2018

      They are called the Opposition, duperez. Sometimes they are Labour and other times National. The difference is that they don’t try to cause those things which is what the media is trying to do.

      • PartisanZ

         /  December 9, 2018

        The expected outcome of this ‘game of drones’ appears to be –

        Government proposes, Opposition opposes … Best solutions and best practice slip through the cracks …

        Best solutions always depend on collaboration and the widest consensus possible …

    • Gezza

       /  December 9, 2018

      Al nailed where I was heading.