Whose cracks are more problematic – Simon Bridges’ or Tova O’Brien’s?

Newshub journalist Tova O’Brien has written some scathing reports and opinions about Simon Bridges and his leadership. They have just exchanged jabs on Newshub Nation.

Bridges: “And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay.”

O’Brien responded “I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists…”

Bridges certainly has problems and challenges as National leader.

But I think it is more problematic that journalists like O’Brien use leaks to make stories out of molehills, and use polls to make baseless predictions based on nothing but a need or desire to make a dramatic story out of something relatively mundane, like a single poll taken at a fairly irrelevant time of the political year.

O’Brien broke the expenses leak story last August:  Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels

Simon Bridges is spending up large – using taxpayer funding to pay for his limousine.

Newshub has been leaked MPs’ expenses, which show the National Party leader has spent far more money on travel and accommodation than MPs usually manage to chew through.

This turned out to be a bit of a beat up. The expenses were due to be released through normal procedures a few days later anyway.

But that doesn’t come cheap.

Not due for public release until later this week, the leaked figures show Mr Bridges has been splashing cash.

Travel and accommodation topped $113,973, and most of that – $83,693 – was spent on travelling the country by road and in style.

And it was revealed recently that the leader of the Opposition is ‘charged’ far more than Ministers:

It was National leader Simon Bridges’ $83,693 in VIP transport costs in the June quarter last year were the catalyst for the breakdown between the party and MP Jami-Lee Ross after they were leaked to the media early.

Bridges’ VIP transport would have been $33,281 if he had been charged at the same rate as ministers.

As stated there the leak through O’Brien led to the Jami-Lee Ross debacle, which Newshub was very involved in (various journalists, not just O’Brien), with headlines like:

In one particularly odd report O’Brien discussed various possibilities about the leak – Tova O’Brien says ‘anyone’ could have leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses – but presumably she knows how it happened and who the leaker was, as they leaked to her.

Last month O’Brien fronted a series of stories on a Newshub/Reid Research poll, which was scathing of Bridges, and also grossly overstated to importance of a single poll.

The poll result is newsworthy. Dramatic claims about what might happen as a result of the poll is very poor journalism – it is trying to make a huge story out of just one poll. O’Brien followed up with: Tova O’Brien: Simon Bridges’ trifecta from hell

This is a trifecta from hell for Simon Bridges:

  1. National has plunged under his leadership;
  2. Voters don’t want him as Prime Minister, and;
  3. Judith Collins has overtaken him in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.

And it just gets worse…

Four weeks later, nothing much has changed. In fact, Bridges’ performance as leader has improved a bit, he has effectively applied pressure to the Government over their botched handling of the Tax Working Group report, particularly the possibilities of a Capital Gains Tax.

More recent polls suggest that the Newshub poll may have been more of a temporary drop than a sign of a trend – see UMR and other polls – Labour and National even – which highlights the overblowing of O’Brien’s and Newshub’s coverage of their poll (they also, unusually, held back the results for a week).

On Newshub Nation yesterday questions were asked about polling:

What are you going to do to turn around your poor personal polling, Simon?

I think actually, just what I’ve said to you. It’s two things. Firstly, elections are a referendum on the government. It’s governments that lose elections. At the moment, I think they’re going about that pretty well, from my perspective, with some of the things that they are doing and not doing. What I need to make sure National is doing…

People do say that Jacinda actually won the last election, though.

Well, I think Winston Peters won the last election. I think there’s quite a few that say that as well. He won it for her, and now Michael Cullen’s doing a good job to try and win it for her again – or lose it for her, perhaps. But I’ll hold the government to account. I’ll make sure that National is developing plans so people have got a real choice at the election, and they’ll make up their minds when that election comes.

At what point do you decide you need to step down for the good of the party?

I won’t be. And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay. I believe in what I’m doing, I think I’m the best person for the job, and I lead a terrific team that is putting out policy, that is leading the debates. We’re going to continue doing that.

So we’ll definitely see you as leader at the next election?

You sure will.

So Bridges made a direct reference to O’Brien, who was on the panel. She responded directly:

Perhaps if he keeps talking rubbish like, um but actually there’s there’s…who’s the leader of the National Party has absolutely no bearing on me or any other journalist.

I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists, um, for reporting the facts, for reporting on his leadership. It’s not our fault that he has abysmal poll numbers, it’s not our fault that he’s failing to resonate with voters, it’s not our fault that people in his caucus are murmuring to us on the sidelines and talking about his leadership.

I think there’s no doubt that Bridges has problems as leader of the National Party. One of these problems has been a person or people leaking information to O’Brien with an obvious intention of establishing Bridges’ leadership.

But I think more problematic are the actions of journalists like O’Brien who seem to be deliberately fomenting dysfunction and disunity to create stories and to create headlines.

Journalists should not be immune from criticism by politicians. I think that Bridges is justified in having a mild crack at O’Brien given the nature of some of her coverage, her leaker enabling, and some of her unjournalistic dramatics in some of her stories. Bridges hasn’t been her only target, but she seems to see him as fodder for fame as maker rather than a breaker of stories.

Leave a comment

49 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th March 2019

    Lefty opinions masquerading as journalism is the new norm.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  10th March 2019

      try reading Audrey Young.

      Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  10th March 2019

      Try watching Fox News

      Reply
      • David

         /  10th March 2019

        Try watching CNN, NBC, MSNBC, etc. in fact dont bother Fox out rates them all.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  10th March 2019

          ‘Fox out rates them all.’….settled then…Ardern outrates Bridges=Ardern will be your choice as NZ P.M.

          Reply
        • Duker

           /  10th March 2019

          “Fox News” doesnt outrate CBS NBC at all, maybe another cable news network like MSNBC. You are spewing baseless crap. look it up

          Foxs News ratings are usually below 1%, which is good for that sort of thing( cable channels) and a few million people . But are well below what are called the national networks ABC, NBC, CBS.

          Good news for MSNBC recently- ahead of FNC!- specifically the peak time Maddow V Hannity ( and Hannity is the least deranged of Foxes hosts)
          https://www.adweek.com/tvnewser/scoreboard-wednesday-march-6/396473

          Reply
    • Finbaar Rustle

       /  10th March 2019

      Righty opinions masquerading as journalism has been the norm in NZ since 1831.
      Good to have a change once in a while.

      Reply
  2. Gezza

     /  10th March 2019

    Tova O’Brien is a poison lollipop girl. Can’t stand the woman. She’s made it obvious that her mission is to be an enabler for those actively trying to engineer the removal of Bridges. Strikes me as at the low end of the IQ scale for political analysis – seems to focus on personality politics and to be running a constant attack campaign on Bridges, and hardly anything else. But I don’t watch tv3 much so I don’t have to put up with it as often as tv3 watchers must do. Poor bastards.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  10th March 2019

      Bridges is his own downfall. his ratings have been falling ….down down down, its not just one poll like PG is lamely try to assert

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  10th March 2019

        It’s his presentation style that does him in. His ammo’s a lot better than Little’s was.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  10th March 2019

          both charged with…’barking at every …passing car’.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  10th March 2019

            Yes but when asked for details of what he’s complaining about or what National would do he can provide those.

            Little would just sit there and look blank and maybe waffle on for a while but he made it clear he had no idea. He just seemed clueless.

            1ewes political reporters were usually unkind enuf to only feature unflattering 2 second sound-byte video clips of Little sweating, grizzling, or making grandiose uplifting statements during party conferences about how he was leading Labour into the next government as he continued to tank in the polls.

            They didn’t attack him directly. Their commentary was pretty neutral, they just slyly selected their video clips to make him look silly, thick, or just completely out of touch with how likely he was to crash Labour into the ground at the upcoming election.

            But tv news and other reporters DO regularly attack Bridges in their commentary as well as their 1-2 second video clips. And they promote Collins as secretly disloyal and likely to mount a coup regularly.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  10th March 2019

              really .-Little just look blank ?
              -to you anything labour says is waffle
              Bridges has been avoiding detail, just saying Ardern is ‘tricky’ – now thats an original line.

            • Gezza

               /  10th March 2019

              No – that’s not accurate. It’s not a case of anything Labour says is waffle. They’ve implemented many of their pre-election promises exactly as they said they would. But much of their current future programme such as schools, CGT, well-being budget – you name it – IS waffle – and Jacinda positively pours out torrents of warm fuzzies & aspirational platitudes with nothing concrete yet behind them.

              Bridges’ brings out numbers and statements of what they’ll do – & he can keep it simple. But some of it won’t sway anybody except hard line right-wingers (of which there aren’t many) and as I’ve said his presentation works against him – although I think he’s starting to relax into the job and may have cottoned on to where he needs to improve.

              My recollection of Andrew Little was that he had slogans as policies and when pressed for details or challenged to give targets or numbers he couldn’t. I remember in particular his trade training policy & proposed levy on employers – it was half-baked and he had no idea of the impact even the reporters were telling him it was going to have on tradies running small businesses at the margins already.

            • Duker

               /  10th March 2019

              The facts dont support your claims
              Posted by Andrew Little on January 26, 2016
              “Labour’s Dole for Apprenticeship scheme offers employers who are willing to train an apprentice the equivalent of the unemployment benefit. This policy is popular with young people, business and every Kiwi who wants to see young people get ahead.

              Previously it was restricted to 18 – 19 year-olds and capped at 3000 places per year. The worsening unemployment situation and increasing skills shortage in key areas such as construction means we will expand this to include young people aged 18 – 24 and remove the cap.
              https://www.labour.org.nz/labour_boosts_dole_for_apprenticeships

              Just repeating nationals talking points, you clearly cant remember the policy, doesnt make it real

              Im sure AL can waffle with the rest of them, but they way to see from code words like ‘investigate’ ‘review’ or ‘work with’

              Just having a look at national.org.nz gives this classic waffle
              https://www.national.org.nz/bustastrophe_shows_govt_needs_to_take_charge
              With these classic lines
              ‘“It is simply not good enough for the Regional Council to blame others when it is their job to make things work.’

              cant miss an oppotunity to blame others
              But the current Government also has work to do,” Mr Hudson says.

              and the waffle to end all waffle
              “Wellingtonians, New Zealanders, deserve better,” Mr Hudson says.”

              Its the purest form of waffle Ive seen for a while.

            • Gezza

               /  10th March 2019

              Did you watch Little on Q&A about it?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  10th March 2019

      Someone tell the Slithy Tova what problematic really means.

      Reply
  3. David

     /  10th March 2019

    Unfortunately Labour developed this sport for the media with a line up of appallingly inept leaders so its just now become a trope as we wait for the leader of the opposition to fail.
    I get the feeling Bridges will make it, his life is filled with coming out on top against many odds.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  10th March 2019

      Made for TV movie coming out in time for the school holidays, anybody have any thoughts on a title?

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  10th March 2019

      what odds …would they be then?

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  10th March 2019

      What coming out on top against the odds.
      he was bought up in a lower middle class house hold- not rich as his father was an ordained minister… he had no trouble getting his first job with a queen st law firm.. and then moved to Tauranga where he worked as a prosecutor on the firms government contract….sabbatical to study at Oxford.

      ohhh the life of adversity( compared to Max Key)….. Are you looking at it from your silver spoon upbringing …

      Reply
  4. NOEL

     /  10th March 2019

    Having a crack at the press gallery is problematic.

    Geez Winston has been doing that for years and has outlasted many journalists.

    Reply
  5. Duker

     /  10th March 2019

    “More recent polls suggest that the Newshub poll may have been more of a temporary drop ”

    All polls vary , thats what they do . But I showed your ‘summer claim’ yesterday was baseless,( when reviewed by a Stats professor) but cant yet let it go

    “use polls to make baseless predictions ” – the poll is evidence . Its not baseless, by definition. let it go

    ” In fact, Bridges’ performance as leader has improved a bit,”
    Thats not a FACT, its your opinion, because you agree with him.

    Forgetting that Simon was going around the country when the polls were being done promoting his tax cuts based on eliminating bracket creep. No one remembers that now , but he seemed to have flopped in the marketing of it .

    Reply
  6. artcroft

     /  10th March 2019

    Tova O’Brien: Fearlessly holding the opposition to account. The govt?… not so much.

    Reply
  7. Duker

     /  10th March 2019

    “Dramatic claims about what might happen as a result of the poll is very poor journalism – it is trying to make a huge story out of just one poll. ”

    Bridges polling has dropped over his year as leader from 12% to 5%- it would be nice to consider the trend like O’ Brien has rather than think that shes only referring to one poll.

    Other political commentators are saying the same thing . PERIL.
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12205019
    ‘On the other hand, Simon Bridges has simply gone down in every poll since he took over. He has plummeted from a high of 12 per cent in May to 6 per cent now. “

    Its seems it only you PG thats sees Bridges as not a dud leader, ignoring the facts

    Reply
  8. duperez

     /  10th March 2019

    With nothing to report there are no jobs for journalists. You can’t have a building full of people waiting around for a big tragedy to happen so the media can report on it.

    So while they wait they have to find angles and stuff to fill in the time. They mightn’t make stuff up (much) but they create the angles.

    Politics is core business for our media. Politics generates and regenerates enough of a structure to hang the other bits around.

    The dependence and interdependence is reflected in the ‘closing down’ of Parliament from the end of the year brings, the weird releases by and references to ‘duty’ ministers over the Christmas period and the pro forma pre-ordained attacks by opposition opportunists. They’re all waiting round for the season to start again and normal transmission can be resumed. Without politics there’s hardly anything worth reporting on, just people living their lives.

    It’s a twiddling of thumbs thing, when you want something to happen. It wasn’t the holiday break but Bridges’ expenses thing was just an example of that. It was a fantastic coup for O’Brien. Someone gave her something that even on here we’re saying was nothing. The little pebble rolled down the hill and became a massive snowball. Which has melted down to nothing after engaging so many, so much, on its roll.

    Silly? Absurd? Yes, of course, but we’re all part go the game and do our bit to encourage it. Like the ‘no news Fridays’ – political announcements and releases aren’t to be made on Fridays.

    Who’s leading the craziness there, the politicians, O’Brien and her colleagues? Or us?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th March 2019

      Once upon a time TV led the news cycle and was a must watch for those interested in breaking news and in-depth coverage. Now it lags the internet, often by days, and has become redundant unless you need the comfort of a poncing figurehead reinforcing your prejudices – which has become its sales pitch. O’Brian and her ilk are just the hired hacks delivering it.

      Reply
      • Finbaar Rustle

         /  10th March 2019

        “Poncing figurehead reinforcing your prejudices”
        That’s why I gave up watching the 6 o’clock “News” in ’75.
        So glad you finally caught up.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  10th March 2019

          Where did you get your news from? The People’s Voice was defunct by then. Surely you didn’t have to wait for the Guardian Weekly?

          Reply
          • Finbaar Rustle

             /  10th March 2019

            Mormons on bikes, Jehova Witnesses on Saturday mornings, teen age girls on the bus and drunks out side the pie cart on sat nite
            kept me up to speed on what was really important 🙂

            Reply
  9. Duker

     /  10th March 2019

    The idea that Bridges was charged at a higher rate ‘because hes opposition leader’ is nonsense. if it was a true accounting error they would have got a refund they would have made much of it.

    What you have to understand is how the Crown limo system works. Its a charge out based on the costs of the cars and drivers. They also have contract limos and drivers if they are short and for peak occasions.
    Cars and drivers are based in Auckland , Wellington, Christchurch for obvious reasons. Most ‘hires’ are for a single event, the driver picks up the passenger etc. They may travel from say Christchurch down to say Timaru , the minister flys in, is picked up ,has the event and then returned to airport and the driver goes back to home base in Christchurch. This is repeated all over the country, some time in larger places a contract limo is available.

    Bridges on his tour of small towns and small meetings, needed the car over a number of days ( his twitter feed showed him in the small towns , Gore etc). When the driver stays in accommodation , likely the same place as Bridges , the costs go up . So as crown limos are a cost recovery basis , the higher rate applies as accomodation/meals is included .
    The same rules apply to ministers where they use the same car /driver on consecutive days away from the main bases.

    The idea that Bridges is paying more than ministers ‘for the same service’ is as baseless as the ‘summer poll’ – also spread by national with no evidence.

    Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  10th March 2019

      Bridges was charged more for the Limo use because that is how it is done. It was not, and has never been described as “an accounting error”.
      Bridges Limo use is charged through Parliamentary Services at a far higher rate than Government ministers, whose costs are charged through Ministerial Services.
      I’m not sure why there is a difference, although I have heard it is due to bulk funding of much of the cost by Ministerial services leaving a lower attributable hourly cost to go to individual minister’s spending, compared to PS allocations.
      The fact is, the same usage by Jacinda Ardern would have resulted in a far lower cost on the disclosures.
      Not that it makes any difference – even Ardern said the usage was entirely justifiable by Bridges.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  10th March 2019

        Doesnt make sense – that MS is charged less than PS ? What about charges for judges use ? What about charges for ex Pms, as they are neither ministerial or parliamentary, are they bulk funded withe Governor general ?
        My reasoning makes sense- overnight accommodation for driver is a higher rate.
        You are right in the sense that Bridge was ‘entitled’ to use the car and driver. But you have forgotten about National making a stink over Marks being flown by helicopter by RNZAF from his electorate to a ceremony at Woodbourne base. That too was what he was entitled to do, the AF has funding for VIP travel, and the pilots need the flights to keep up their hours to maintain requirements for remaining a pilot. ( Only at airlines do they fly so much normal hours in excess of requirements, but if they fall below – if sick for a period- they have to undergo retraining)

        You cant play the travel card when it suits and then not complain if it catches Bridges out.

        In my work once of twice, the company had a car and driver waiting at the airport, normally I had to find a taxi.

        Reply
        • alloytoo

           /  11th March 2019

          https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12208261

          Somethings just are. whether they make sense or not.

          Reply
        • High Flying Duck

           /  12th March 2019

          “New disclosure notes issued alongside today’s expenses reveal that Bridges is charged $171 per hour for VIP travel services while ministers are charged only $68 an hour.

          Bridges’ VIP transport would have been $33,281 if he had been charged at the same rate as ministers. That is still higher than any minister spent in that quarter.

          Bridges’ spending on VIP travel was substantially lower in the September quarter – $47,223.

          While he spent $13,756 on VIP travel in the December quarter, that figure would have been only $8236 if charged at the ministerial rate.

          A spokeswoman for Parliamentary Service the change in reporting had been made because the areas had been the subject of scrutiny.

          “The problem was, in the past that people were comparing apples and oranges as Members and Ministers have different charge-out rates.

          “In order to provide more clarity we have disclosed (as a note) what the cost would be if Members were charged at the same rate as ministers so that the cost would be comparable,” the spokeswoman said.

          Speaker Trevor Mallard asked the general manager of the Parliamentary Service to arrange a more equitable and transparent charging system for non-ministerial VIP usage.

          “The current (interim) report approach is one suggested by the Speaker following discussions with PS staff.”

          Reply
  10. Finbaar Rustle

     /  10th March 2019

    Whose cracks are more problematic – Simon Bridges’ or Tova O’Brien’s?
    Eh?
    Pat Bartlett would have a fit 🙂

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  10th March 2019

      Yes, it was a bit click-baity cheeky (pardon the pun).

      Reply
      • Finbaar Rustle

         /  10th March 2019

        Lol.
        Had to admire those who responded in a straight forward way.
        I unfortunately couldn’t resit the bait 🙂

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  10th March 2019

          Problematic means dubious or doubtful, it has nothing to do with problems !!!

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  10th March 2019

            You’re wrong about this one, Kitty. It has everything to do with problems.

            problematic
            /prɒbləˈmatɪk
            adjective
            1. constituting or presenting a problem.
            “the situation was problematic for teachers”
            synonyms: difficult, hard, problematical, taxing, troublesome, tricky, awkward, controversial, ticklish, complicated, complex, knotty, thorny, prickly, involved, intricate, vexed;prickly, involved, intricate, vexed; paradoxical, puzzling, baffling, perplexing; informal: sticky, like herding cats; informal: dodgy
            “the piece is among the most problematic of all his major works”

            noun
            1. a thing that constitutes a problem.
            “the problematics of artificial intelligence”

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  10th March 2019

              Where’s that from ?

              ‘Problematic; questionanle; dubious; uncertain; doubtfull.’

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  10th March 2019

              My OED definition is similar to the one I gave,

            • Gezza

               /  10th March 2019

              Just a plain google search: “problematic definition”.

              My Collins English dictionary here at home gives definitions similar to the one I posted above, with fewer synonyms.

              The Onelook Online Dictionary gives you a wide choice of dictionary defintions.

              There are a couple in there I saw that include the “questionable” or “doubtful” type definitions – but only as a 2nd or 3rd meaning. Perhaps you have come across it in literature when it may have been used in that context by characters in books or history who used a flowery form of words that meant dubious or questionable because that was their upper-class style of saying such things.

              But there’s no doubt that the more obvious meaning – something that is a problem – is the primary use of the word.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  11th March 2019

              The fact that many people misuse a word doesn’t alter its meaning.

              Does anyone use ‘problematic’ as a noun ? How hideous. Peasants.Bring back capital punishment in schools for murdering the English language.

          • Finbaar Rustle

             /  11th March 2019

            The meaning is not changed though. Still casts doubt over the respective cracks of the two individuals. Can’t paper over the cracks 🙂 Good craic tho 🙂

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  11th March 2019

              Will yez give us a while of yer craic ? Sure and it’s been a while. so it has.

            • Finbaar Rustle

               /  11th March 2019

              Maybe we’ll go out on the lash. St. Paddy’s Day is Sunda is it not?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  11th March 2019

              That’d be the quare oul’ gas, so it would. I’ll hafta ask me mammy will she let me go out with yez. Sure and she knows what yez are like when yez have a jar or two in yez.

  1. Whose cracks are more problematic – Simon Bridges’ or Tova O’Brien’s? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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