Bridges fighting for leadership but numbers may be against him

Simon Bridges precipitated a quick resolution to the leadership challenge against him. he National caucus will meet at in Wellington at noon on Friday to decide whether to dump Bridges.

At this stage there is only one challenger, Todd Muller, with Nikki Kaye proposed as his deputy. Both Judith Collins and Mark Mitchell have said they will not challenge, and they probably don’t have time to change their minds due to the rushed timeframe.

Richard Harman thinks that Muller probably has the numbers to roll Bridges: How Bridges flushed out Muller

National Leader Simon Bridges was last night phoning caucus members trying to win enough votes to stave off a vote of no confidence this Friday. But it is probably too late.

Multiple sources have told POLITIK that there is a majority who want him out.

If the vote succeeds, there is only one challenger for the leadership, Bay of Plenty MP, Todd Muller.

The other possible contender, Papakura MP, Judith Collins, has made it clear she will not be standing.

POLITIK understands it was Collins who first alerted Bridges to Muller’s challenge last Saturday. One source told POLITIK she told him that there was a majority in the caucus who opposed him continuing in the leadership.

From Simon Bridges vs Todd Muller: It’s all about the big W for National

Yet as it stood late yesterday, the Bridges forces were confident of their numbers, which importantly, includes a lot of the heavyweights on the party’s front bench and within the party including shadow cabinet members Paul Goldsmith, Todd McClay, Michael Woodhouse, Judith Collins, Mark Mitchell, and Brett Hudson. Between them they cover the portfolios of finance, trade, economic development, defence, justice, health, and police.

But team Muller is also confident it has the numbers, especially as at least 16 current MPs are facing unemployment if the numbers from Monday night’s poll are replicated on election night. Muller himself is calling or meeting with every MP he can.

Woodhouse, Goldsmith and Hudson are in precarious situations – on current polling they could easily lose their seats in Parliament.

It’s standard for defenders and contenders to claim to have the numbers, but that could be bluff and bluster, and numbers can easily change, especially if MPs sense which way a decision may go, and consider their political careers.

A challenge isn’t much of a surprise. Bridges has failed to appeal to most voters, and support for national has slipped badly over the last two months.

Stuff has details on Muller: Todd Muller, the man who could be prime minister

Detractors lash Muller as a return to the “pale, stale, male” era of big business and bigger egos the party should have left behind.

But Muller backers equally make the point that if National plans to torch Labour for a lack of private-sector experience, Crown prosecutor-cum-MP Bridges might not be the man to do it.

A 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll, completed last night and to be revealed tonight, is likely to add to the numbers against Bridges.

Muller is not well known but that would change, to an extent, if he took over the leadership. He would still battle in the shadow of Jacinda Ardern’s media profile, but the hope must be that he can at least stem the bleeding of support for National.


Matthew Hooton on RNZ this morning called Bridges’ calling of an urgent meeting an act of political harikari, although claims that earlier in the week Muller was a couple of votes short. he thinks that Bridges’ action yesterday may have swung numbers against him.

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64 Comments

  1. Duker

     /  21st May 2020

    Mitchell says he wont challenge Bridges , but leaves open the possibility for a leadership run if Bridges resigns OR loses a ‘confidence’ vote.

    Reply
  2. Corky

     /  21st May 2020

    Good to see the Maori coming out in Bridges. He will go to his political death standing up, and not on his knees as seems to have become ‘the Kiwi Way’ recently.’

    If Bridges losses the leadership he can take heart from Bill English who made a come back and would now be our PM if it hadn’t been for one feral self serving politician.

    Seems Judith is playing the long game.

    Apparently the touted heir to the National throne is a liberal. That’s bad news from crime victims and Raptor Squad. Great news for crooks and the cafe set.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st May 2020

      Bridges is not the PM yet. So you know there IS no Raptor Squad – right?

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st May 2020

        The heir to the National throne ?
        Yes she is liberal but is she truly authentic…..is there parts she doesnt want to talk about ?
        Paula took on the ‘westie chick’ persona as of course that was her real background ( Napier Tattoo Club). Is Nikki going expand on her persona.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  21st May 2020

          I’m talking about the heir to the National throne. You do know what a heir is? Maybe not.

          Heir:

          “a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death.
          “his eldest son and heir”

          Oh..yep, I get it. Death is a little too existential for you in this context.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st May 2020

            Wot❓

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st May 2020

            Deputy’s arent entitled to anything in NZ parties
            Trevor Mallard was Party Deputy to Clark after 2000 election…oh look what hes inherited.
            Anyway we get your real point of 2IC to the leader, as it normally means doing all the things they dont want to bother with

            Reply
        • oldlaker

           /  21st May 2020

          Actually, Duker, Bennett’s real persona was as the daughter of shop keepers at the upmarket enclave of KInloch on the shores of Lake Taupo. She once described her childhood as “sunshine and freedom”.
          She lived next door to the Holyoakes’ farm and I believe Sir Keith’s nephew introduced her to National Party politics.
          She had a wild late teenage-hood but most of us who did too don’t claim that as our “persona” because we understand it was an interlude.
          Her middle-class roots meant she knew how to work the system, including buying a house when she was on the benefit. I’m always surprised the media aren’t onto her myth-making.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st May 2020

            At least Bennett didnt gild the lily – she was a single mum with a colorful background, at one time hanging out with hard cases.
            Nikki is just a single 40 yr old living in Ponsonby, who does endurance sports and thats about the limit of the ‘persona’.
            persona comes from the latin word for masks the actors wore.

            Reply
      • Corky

         /  21st May 2020

        Definitely no Raptor Squad. Literally no Raptor Squad…no Raptor Squad. No Velociraptor either.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st May 2020

          Nope. You need Mark Mitchell as Police Minister for that.

          Reply
  3. Horrrace

     /  21st May 2020

    Muller can’t win an election and is trying to argue to back bench MPs they will get better jobs with him especially the recent arrivals in 2014 and 2017. Problem is in opposition and with 55 in Caucus lots of smart people in National have not much to do. Wiser heads will prevail.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st May 2020

      I think it was very telling that when 1News at 6 did a street survey of plebs, armed with A4-size pics (a selection of interviewees shown last night) – they all knew who Simon Bridges was, but nobody knew who Todd Muller was.

      Although one older lady who bravely took a punt came out with: “Simon Joyce?”

      I myself visualised Todd McLay when I first heard the news.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st May 2020

        ” essentially physically indistinguishable from around three or four of his colleagues, as a middle aged bald white man in a suit. He is not so much the “candidate from central casting”, as the candidate grown in a National party lab, seemingly as part of a batch.”
        https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/21-05-2020/the-national-party-coup-has-gone-public-can-simon-bridges-cling-on/

        Of course its silly wheter they have hair or not, but since Muldoon the National leaders preponderance are of those with ‘with hair’ – Its more widespread world wide .
        Trump ( and Biden)
        Boris
        Scott Morrison
        Macron
        Conte
        Trudeau ( hes younger like Macron)

        Reply
  4. Gezza

     /  21st May 2020

    Matthew Hooton on RNZ this morning called Bridges’ calling of an urgent meeting an act of political harikari, although claims that earlier in the week Muller was a couple of votes short. he thinks that Bridges’ action yesterday may have swung numbers against him.

    Ambiguous. Swung the numbers against who? Bridges or Muller?

    Reply
    • Kimbo

       /  21st May 2020

      Bridges, hence the reference to (unintended political) suicide. Horton is claiming that Bridges hastening he showdown somehow conveys a lack of nerve on is part, and as a result caucus members who were undecided will be tipped into the Muller camp.

      As with most things from Horton you have to decide what is genuine and/or sound analysis, what is not, and what is pure spin. Usually if you are facing a coup, or at least one like this from a comparative (from the wider electorate’s perspective) nobody, you hasten the show down as the longer you leave it the more chance there is that the wider party membership will warm to the new prospect, which will aid the plotters in getting the necessary caucus numbers.

      Plus it is inconsistent for Hooton to claim that Bridges is somehow showing a lack of political judgement and/or bottle, when those in caucus plotting a change are doing the same based on not-unexpected-due-to-the-current-national-emergency polling. I mean, come on, irrespective of Bridges’ failings (and they do exist, and maybe, especially because of presentation and EQ deficiencies, he will never be the answer), it is not like National have uncovered a Jacinda MkII in Muller. Nor even a likely antidote, other than whomever holds the position of Leader of the Opposition is the go-to if the voter decides Ardern must go.

      And as with Bridges now, any new National leader will not get the necessary publicity oxygen, at least not likely before the election campaign. And any good publicity before then will not be because of Muller’s (or Bridges’) ability, but because the current government will drop the ball big time before the election. “Events my dear fellow, events…”

      Collins, for all her polarising public image and alleged baggage, was the only option for National to do a “Hail Mary” as Labour did with Ardern weeks before the 2017 election.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  21st May 2020

        Maybe. I’ve had a coffee & more of a think:

        https://yournz.org/2020/05/21/bridges-fighting-for-leadership-but-numbers-may-be-against-himm/#comment-419822

        The media is hungry for news other than Jacinda & Covid-19. They must getting sick of The Jacinda & Ashley show & regurgitating the same news over and over again. Muller might get a lot of free publicity to break their boredom.

        Reply
        • Kimbo

           /  21st May 2020

          Tova O’Brien has been copping flack for her on-going coverage of Bridges’ alleged failings and poor personal poll numbers, which ignores the reality that most Leaders of the Opposition struggle to get above 10% unless the incumbent PM is unpopular. However, criticism that she is a political partisan is likely incorrect. Instead she is a lazy equal-opportunity muck raker looking for a quick and easy story that will get clicks/sell cyber fish and chip paper.

          And as she was taught by her mentor Paddy Gower, who in turn was similarly mentored by Duncan Garner, no story writes itself and is more easy to keep chipping along whenever the news cycle needs filling than, “Leader of the Opposition is going to be knifed by his/her own team”. Hence the same story was run, irrespective of the political party, with Little, Cunliffe, Shearer, Goff, Brash, English, Shipley…

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st May 2020

            Yes. I’d give the edge to Jess Mutch MacKay as tv political editor. O’Brien’s the same fake news-manufacturing knifer type that Gower was. Jessica’s sort of a fangirl of Jacinda’s but much more likely to manage a balanced assessment.

            (Katie Bradley needs to wear bigger jackets. Other than that she’s not worth commenting on.)

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st May 2020

              Isnt that a millennial thing..trousers too short and jackets too small ?
              In my day it was called fashion victims

      • Horrace

         /  21st May 2020

        Hoooten is an out of touch player. He is very right wing some of his articles are crazy. There is a good reason the National Party and it’s MPs don’t work with him. He’d be happiest with Act at 30 and National at 20.

        Reply
  5. Even though he is officially Gen X, he’s gonna be known as the ‘Ok boomer’ guy. I can easily imagine billboards with his face on them during the election period, with graffiti “Ok boomer” sprayed on top.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st May 2020

      Yup. But he won’t be appealing to that demographic – they’re Chloe’s & Jacinda’s fangirls.
      … … …
      “He is ambitious. That much is obvious.

      While most Kiwis have never heard of him, the 51-year-old second-term National MP is exceedingly well known around Parliament. Ask anyone to name a future National leader (a question that’s illuminated many a whiskey-drenched conversation between MPs in the past three years), and Muller’s name inevitably lands somewhere near the top.

      He’s been near the top of this list for longer than most people realise. A former staffer in the office of prime minister Jim Bolger, Muller was always slated for big things — his colleagues speculated then that he may have taken the well-trodden route from staffer to MP.

      Bolger himself remains a big fan of Muller.

      “He’s always been capable. Otherwise I wouldn’t have hired him for the prime minister’s office,” Bolger tells Stuff.

      To the surprise of many, Muller chose to go into the private sector after working for Bolger, instead of straight into politics.

      He swiftly worked his way up the ranks at Zespri, before stints at the University of Waikato and as a director of Plant and Food Research. Before coming to Parliament in 2014, Muller worked at high levels within Fonterra, before quitting to make a run in Bay of Plenty — a safe National seat — in 2014.

      That decision to finally have a go at politics would not have been easy. As group director of co-operative affairs at Fonterra, Muller would have been on a solid wicket, and had to move to Bay of Plenty from Auckland to make the run. MPs are well-paid in New Zealand, but Muller’s position at Fonterra meant he took a substantial pay cut to get into politics. You don’t make a move like that unless you think you’re destined for the big time.”
      … … …
      His demographic is National’s core & the centre right swing voter – the latter being the ones the Nats are worried Bridges is pushing away at a quickening pace.

      Looking at Stuff’s photo for the article that’s from, the professional image-makers can tart him up pretty quickly into just the right blend of business experience, liberal leanings in the politically correct areas, & political savvy.

      Ardern doesn’t have the former & has limited (but currently effective) grasp of the latter.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st May 2020

        Do you have a link for all that.
        As he went straight from University to Bolgers office and since then looks more like hes worked as a lobbyist for private companies….a well trodden path for National Mps
        Master’s degree in politics and history- not the usual commercial subject to study
        Also working at Apata Group -“While his parents later went on to found the Apata Group, a post-harvest giant in the Kiwifruit world” clearly it was ( at the time) the family business

        Reply
      • Kimbo

         /  21st May 2020

        Unlike Helen Clark who continues to have an impact with Labour, I doubt that Bolger has much clout in the National Party these days, either in caucus or wider party membership.

        Instead Key, who recently sent the signal that it was open-season on Bridges by praising Nation-MP-in-waiting Christopher Luxon as a prospective Prime Minister is the one whose opinion counts.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st May 2020

          Yes, it does, & I reckon he’s been consulted about this move.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st May 2020

            I dont think Key has been ‘consulted’… my impression from comments made was he left behind no strong friendships within the party and is no longer active. I think he wants to stay onside with ‘everyone’ , and that was his personal style which he had a gift for.

            Reply
            • Kimbo

               /  21st May 2020

              No, that overlooks that Key is still capable of and willing to be used to deliver a message.

              Hence when he said what he did about Luzon, Key did anything but “stay onside” with Bridges and his camp. Indeed, quite the opposite, as there would have been a gnashing off teeth in that quarter. Like who was and wasn’t positioned on the balcony of the Kremlin during May Day parades, it was a subtle but unmistakable signal to both the caucus and wider-membership for the unease concerning the current leadership to move into full coup-execution mode.

            • Duker

               /  21st May 2020

              Luxon isnt even an MP, hardly relevant in current situation.
              He may be the leader after the leader after Bridges.

            • Gezza

               /  21st May 2020

              Well, exactly.

            • Kimbo

               /  21st May 2020

              Correct, Luxon is not yet an MP. Which gave Key additional plausible deniability when talking about his credentials as a future PM.

              But all astute observers knows that any politician, either former or current, who departs from “our current leader is the only one I’m thinking about or discussing as the next Prime Minister, and s/he has my full support” is a signal where their true allegiance lies.

            • Duker

               /  21st May 2020

              Im of the view its ‘when they say that the current leader etc” is a sure sign the rumblings have started.

            • kimbo

               /  21st May 2020

              Fair point, D, fair point. Although not, I’d suggest when they have nothing to lose like an ex-PM such as Key. Instead your suggested gambit is employed by sitting MPs who want an insurance policy if the attempted coup fails. Sso they can get some choice baubles irrespective of who runs the show.

              Whereas those who do want to publicly destabilise but retain plausible deniability are best to utilise the, “I’m happy to remain the member for Tauranga” approach. Is a lie about their true ambition, but by omitting to endorse the.current leadership it helps add fuel to the fire.

          • Gezza

             /  21st May 2020

            Nah – you’re wrong again. His strong promottiob of Luxon as a candidate shows he’s still operating in the background; not as a Grey Eminence like

            but still very influential when he deigns to come down to earth. He was their star performer. Even Ardern has borrowed from his Question Time style.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st May 2020

              As opposed to Bridges and the 3 charged by SFO

            • Gezza

               /  21st May 2020

              No, I don’t think Ardern has copied the Question Time style of Bridges or Ross, & those other 2 aren’t even in Parliament. 😐

            • Duker

               /  21st May 2020

              Like yours …too good not to use

            • Gezza

               /  21st May 2020

              Cheers. 👍🏼

              Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

          • Gezza

             /  21st May 2020

            FiP!

            *promotion

            Reply
      • Well, they’re tarting him up, because journalists always want blood.

        I agree with you in principle, but it’s going be very hard for anyone to claw back that many centre voters. Millennials vote less than baby boomers and Gen X, but ‘ok boomer’ is simple shorthand for being out of touch, and it will be used as a stick against him. Paula Bennett has done nothing to help balance Simon’s image, the same will be with Nikki Kaye with Muller.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st May 2020

          Nikki just looks waspish & sounds bitchy. All Ardern has to do to counter her is appear disappointed & slightly hurt by her “nasty” remarks.

          But the deputy is not really all that important in the overall scheme of things. Most of them are picked because they don’t represent a threat to the leader but do appeal to a particular desired demographic.

          Imagine if something terrible happened to Ardern & Kelvin Davis had to take over as leader? Jesus! A political slaughter would ensue.

          Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st May 2020

    Timing is everything. Now all the bad news stories will end Jacinda’s happy hour on TV. They are trying to suppress this by holding back all the bad news statistics until after the election.

    Reply
    • Kimbo

       /  21st May 2020

      Sorry, Alan, who do you mean by “they?

      The current government? Well, yes, but then as self-preservation is the most basic instinct even a group as collectively incompetent – other than in the PR-and-empathy superstar that is the PM – as the current administration will try and exploit any advantage possible. Including the initial good will of the public to “pull together” and keep “criticism and negativity” to a minimum during a national crisis.

      Or did you mean the mainstream media, especially TV?

      Reply
  7. Duker

     /  21st May 2020

    Suppressing the bad news ?….. early onset here, a clear case of delusional thinking

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st May 2020

      All the best. Caught early you may be able to slow down its progression.

      Reply
  8. Gezza

     /  21st May 2020

    8 minutes ago? They’re breathlessly tracking his every move; no doubt bored witless with the Jacinda & Ashley Show, hungry for some new action, not yadayada be kind. Free publicity to die for.

    Looking good. Man on a mission!

    Being an unknown has become irrelevant. By the end of the week he’ll be widely & well-known, whatever the coup outcome.

    Reply
  9. Zedd

     /  21st May 2020

    Bridges & Paula sound ‘positive’ they have the numbers to maintain their roles.. sounds good to I; lead the party to another 3 years in opposition OR longer 😀

    Reply
  10. Gezza

     /  21st May 2020

    Damien Grant mans the Bridges Barricade & fires an RPG at Muller…

    Judith Collins is the only viable alternative to Bridges. She has ruled herself out of contention and isn’t making calls to her fellow MPs.

    Collins has made a career of sticking to her word and demonstrating remarkable loyalty to a series of leaders who have shown her nothing but unwarranted contempt. If she says she’s not running, she is not running.

    As remarkable as it is, Muller appears to believe that he would be a viable alternative for National to put up against the most popular prime minister this country has seen since the one before Bill English.

    He isn’t. Muller is a wooden performer in front of the camera. He has none of the charm and zing modern electorates demand of their political leaders. He comes across as an uninteresting middle manager devoid of vision or the ability to inspire.

    National needs to tread carefully.

    In 2002, Bill English, a solid campaigner with senior ministerial experience, led National to just 20.93 per cent against the very competent but unloved Helen Clark.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/300017656/todd-muller-the-uninteresting-middle-manager-lacking-charm-and-zing

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  21st May 2020

      They need someone who can challenge Jacinda for the female airhead vote. Should be young, virile and relatably stupid. But I think they’ve kicked him out of the party.

      Reply
      • Sarah & Paula & the media sisterhood well & truly killed his chances with the ladies – even the airheads.

        Lucky his Mrs didn’t do a Lorena Bobbit on him. Besides, isn’t he emotionally unstable now? According to his caring & concerned medical advocates, Cam & co?

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  21st May 2020

          Can’t he find a Princess somewhere to be seen out with? Preferably in the super-rich set and the gossip mags like the Herald and Womans Day?

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st May 2020

            Gossip mags …Simon has been working those hard since his ‘coronation’.
            Hes shamelessly pushed his young kids front and centre for all those ‘exclusives at home’ – births and birthdays and even non events are reasons to get the cameras inside.

            Trouble is Simon over did the starring role of doting dad and not paid as much attention to being the political operator
            https://www.nowtolove.co.nz/parenting/family/simon-bridges-admits-its-a-challenge-juggling-family-and-career-38909
            https://www.nowtolove.co.nz/parenting/family/at-home-with-new-national-party-leader-simon-bridges-and-his-family-36832

            And so cute – Smelling his baby …..
            https://d3lp4xedbqa8a5.cloudfront.net/s3/digital-cougar-
            assets/nznow/2018/03/07/1520369803263_new-National-Party-leader-Simon-Bridges-smelling-his-baby.jpg

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st May 2020

            • Gezza

               /  21st May 2020

              Nah. Those were just appealing to the non-politically-inclined womens’ mag readers.

              He’s paid plenty of attention to being the political operator – and until Covid came along & shot Jacinda into stardom when she was flagging, politically & key policy results-wise, he’s actually had plenty of coverage.

              He just hasn’t got that x-factor. He’s been the Andy Little of National, in that sense – when Andy was the leader & couldn’t stop the Party nosediving, & just came always across as a humourless whiner.

              Bridges’ wooden tone & fingernail on a blackboard oymoy diction, barking like Andy at every passing car, dredging up old policies & lawn order rhetoric – dunno what it was – just couldn’t get traction with middle or young New Zealand. The poor sod’s worked hard, & hadcto endure a lot of knocks. But he’s a plodder.

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