Make or break year for Simon Bridges

It’s difficult taking over leadership of a political party, especially one of the two parties, and especially after previous long term popular leadership.

Labour had a lot of trouble finding a popular leader after Helen Clark left after losing the 2008 election. They went through four struggling leaders before circumstances forced a shock shift to Jacinda Ardern, who benefited from an impressive first impression and a short campaign – and then from the support of Winston Peters.

Bill English was a capable replacement for John Key, but was saddled with the difficulty of holding onto power after three terms in Government, a dearth of parties they could try to form coalitions with, and had to compete with the mass of media coverage that helped the sudden rise of Ardern.

English stepped down and National chose Simon Bridges to lead them and to lead the Opposition, both big challenges.

In his nearly a year as National’s leader Bridges has struggled to impress or appeal. Overall there has been little praise and a lot of criticism, and that that sums up my impression of him. He often doesn’t come across well in media. He has had a bit of barking-at-cars syndrome. And I don’t like some of his policy choices, like on drug law reform, abortion and euthanasia (these should be conscience votes but a leader can influence his party MPs).

The only major plus is that while Bridges has failed to fire in ‘preferred Prime Minister’ polls his party support has mostly held up surprisingly well. This may be despite him rather than due to his leadership.

One of Bridges’ biggest practical problems is it seems that most media have started to write him off, which like it or not can have a significant influence.

He has to start the year (later this month) with, somehow, a new outlook, a new plan, and a better way of delivery his messages. It’s hard for a politician to turn around a negative image, but it can be done, as Helen Clark proved. But that was last century. The media and the social media pundits demand instant success or the knives and pens and keyboards are quickly sharpened.

I’m not ready to write Bridges off yet. He and his advisers must be aware of his problems, and must be trying to work out how to address them and turn things around. So Bridges may take a new approach this year – if he does it will take time to prove whether it might work for him or not.

But if he continues much the same as last year then I think he is not going to cut it, and if he doesn’t step down for the good of the party he may be pushed.

This year is probably make or break for Bridges.

Leave a comment

13 Comments

  1. alloytoo

     /  6th January 2019

    Bridges turned it around with his handling of the JLR affair, we saw a balanced approach, but with a steel which by contrast is startlingly absent from the PM.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  6th January 2019

      was JLR the leaker…Mr Bridges doesn’t seem too sure..now! Bol.

      Reply
    • He limited the damage, but it hasn’t resolved the JLR issues let alone turned his leadership around.

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  6th January 2019

      I remember the steel with which he turned the JLR thing around, his team arrayed behind him, the strength, the decisiveness, the steadfastness.

      That shiny sword, the rigid blade to fight off the marauder? Didn’t that turn out to be a bit glistening plastic ‘chrome’, plastic covering over plastic?

      Reply
  2. Chuck Bird

     /  6th January 2019

    If National is polling at 46% next year there is no National MP stupid enough to challenge him. Judith Collins knows if she did and lost then she would never be PM. IF Bridges losses then there would be a challenge.

    Then there is a matter of another coalition partner. It is too early to speculate,

    Reply
  3. lurcher1948

     /  6th January 2019

    Simon Bridgers really doesn’t come across as someone you can warm to,as when he makes any statement he has to surround himself with backing MPs and damn can anyone understand his mumbling croaky voice, even Stuff understands what im saying
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/109708624/david-slack-simon-bridges-how-you-can-be-a-better-you-in-2019

    Reply
  4. Bill Brown

     /  6th January 2019

    He’s hopeless

    Judith will get her turn – but I doubt it would see her as PM. She should have taken the caretaker role this time and held Arden to account much harder than has been done

    National are now like Labour was post Clark – really no decent candidate to actually make a statement that would wow the voters

    Reply
  5. lurcher1948

     /  6th January 2019

    Simon Bridges,the best thing that’s happened to our Prime Minister Jacinda Adern

    Reply
  6. Gezza

     /  6th January 2019

    I’ve got a $2 bag of jet planes riding on his stepping down within the first six months of this year. I probably should have made it “by the end of this year”.

    I can’t see him being able to alter his persona enuf to experience an upswing in the polls. His manner is unlikeable and tv reporting, especially on tv1, which chooses a lot of very short one or two sentence sound bite clips of him seem to delight in making him look bad, the way they did with Andrew Little.

    Whenever I ask folk – even people prepared to admit they vote National – if they can picture him as our PM, they say “No” – usually with a grimace. And that’s the problem he’s got. He doesn’t come over at all well on tv. He seems mechanical, a plodder, not quick enuf to move from his script when opportunity arises in The House, and inclined to over-egg the pudding over several days when Ministers or Jacinda get caught out with stuff ups or telling obvious porkies.

    But he came out of the JLR leak & attack affair looking good, while JLR

    JLR’s disloyal, vicious attack on him actually did more to create a more favourable impression of the man (a lot of sympathy for Bridges, none for JLR) than anything else that happened last year.

    But I can’t see him leading the National Party into the 2020 election and winning, & I don’t think they can either. Not against the Jacinda cult so heavily promoted by female tv journos.

    As the primo modern day celebrity front-person Jacinda is going to pick up the female vote in large numbers – probably regardless of how Winston’s and Grant’s coalition government performs overall.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  6th January 2019

      Dunno why a downtick. That bird didn’t really explode. It’s just a bit of clever CGI. 😎

      Reply
  7. oldlaker

     /  6th January 2019

    Despite being a highly educated and successful lawyer, Bridges often sounds a bit stupid. And that impression comes not only from his diction… he also hides behind talking points (in the same way Andrew Little did when he was Labour leader).

    Reply
  8. Zedd

     /  6th January 2019

    Bridges is just a seat warmer.. just as a few were before Jacinda said “Lets do this”

    methinks there will be a few changes in Natl too.. before they find their real Leader; ex-Key/english.. perhaps a so-called ‘lesser light’ will brighten, after a change of the ‘old-guard’ ? :/ 😀

    Reply
  9. acrossthespectrum

     /  6th January 2019

    It comes down to the election campaign the last 6 weeks in particular. The swinging voters decide elections often those with little or no political interest. What’s trending a coupe of months out is critical. Just follow the next 17 months. The election will look after itself.

    Reply

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