Time for Judith Collins?

There is only one person I can see who would be capable of stepping up and taking over the National Party leadership – Judith Collins.

National is in real trouble with the struggles and now resignation of Todd Muller they quickly need to get someone else in charge.

Collins is very good handling media, and she has a lot of support in the party.

She just lacks major support in the National caucus. A lot of their recent problems have been factional – the aggrieved Bridges faction versus the new Muller faction.

Having a leader independent of both of these factions would be a plus for someone able to command respect and demand loyalty.

National MPs either have too accept and support someone like Collins as leader, or continue to self destruct.

There is some talk of the reappointment of Simon Bridges, but I think that would be a bad move. National support was sliding under his flawed leadership, and he lost the confidence of a majority of his caucus. Putting him back in charge would be nuts.

So I don’t see any option but Judith – if she is willing to give it a go.

Chris Penk book on how to undermine a leader and an election campaign

Chris Penk, first term National MP for Helensville, has self published a sort of a book called Flattening the Country: the real story behind Labour’s lockdown – but it is more like “How to undermine a new leader and an election campaign”.

Penk praised his ex-leader Simon Bridges, and says that he had discussed his book with ‘the party’s leadership when Bridges was in charge, implying he had approval, but he has made no mention of discussing his book with new leader Todd Muller or getting approval from National’s election campaign team.

Penk also said he was not worried about any potential backlash from the public. Is he naive, stupid, or deliberately dumping on Muller and National’s campaign? Possibly a bit of all of those.

I think that back bench MPs shouldn’t be gagged, and they should put their views out in public so that voters can see what they are like and what they think and believe in. But they also should have the sense to put the good of their party and the good of the country ahead of their own agenda, especially heading in to an election.

RNZ: National MP Chris Penk’s book derides government’s Covid-19 response

National backbench MP Chris Penk has released a 30,000 word missive criticising the government’s “lockdown lunacy” and calling its initial response to Covid-19 “shockingly slack” and “incompetent”.

Penk unveiled his self-published book – “Flattening the Country: the real story behind Labour’s lockdown” – on his National website on Thursday evening, alongside an offer to send out signed copies for $20 a pop.

The book is heavily critical of the Covid-19 response, arguing that a poorly prepared and panicked government “set about destroying the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.

“It was only supposed to be the curve that got flattened, not the whole country,” the book begins.

The whole country is nothing like flattened. We have come through the pandemic remarkably unscathed, albeit with some substantial economic, business and employment difficulties. But compared to many other countries New Zealand looks to be very well off.

Speaking to RNZ, Penk said he had discussed his plans for the book with the party’s leadership going back to when Bridges was still in charge.

“The positions that I have stated in the book are consistent with the messages that National has been putting out from the start.”

Messages that National had been putting out perhaps. But the leadership change also changed the leadership messaging quite a lot. Did Penk not think to check out his messaging with Muller and the new campaign team?

He said he was not worried about any potential backlash from the public.

“A large number of people are fearful about expressing a view that is anything other than the received wisdom, the single source of truth, and they don’t want to be ostrasised as not being part of the team of five million.

“Frankly, the bullying tactics that have been applied to others don’t hold any weight with me.”

Is that a swipe at Muller and the new National leadership? Even if not intended as such it effectively looks like it.

Penk’s book is closer in tone to that of former Opposition leader Simon Bridges than that of the new leadership team, and it is complimentary of Bridges’ performance.

Indeed, Penk noted that Bridges would be remembered in time “for performing his constitutional role with commitment and courage”.

Is it a sort of a ‘Bring back Bridges’ campaign?

Early on in the book, Penk acknowledged the lockdown was “necessary” and its timing “roughly right”, but he went on to critique “Labour’s particular form of lockdown lunacy”, arguing it was too harsh and was unnecessarily extended.

Level 3 would have been a more appropriate starting point, Penk said.

“Whole industries have been led like so many lambs to a no-longer-non-essential slaughterhouse.”

Penk also reserved some harsh words for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing her as a “cheerleader-in-chief” and “one trick pony” for repeatedly imploring the public to “be kind”.

“Compulsory kindness is oxymoronic. And moronic. And insulting,” he wrote.

He includes quotes from social media including Kiwiblog in his book. It sounds like it.

and he may have put himself (and National) in an awkward position regarding donations. Stuff: National MP Chris Penk’s lockdown book raises political donation questions

He’s now published it on the National party website, where people have the choice of reading the book for free or ordering a signed copy for $20 after depositing money in Penk’s bank account, which is listed.

Penk also asks people who read the book for free to “consider making a small contribution to fund the printing and distribution of more copies”.

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the donations may have to be declared as donations to Penk as a candidate, although not if the donation was a “like-for-like” fee covering the cost of printing the book.

Penk may not have thought things through.

Penk said all laws relating to the donations would be complied with.

They will have to be complied with, he hasn’t got any choice. He can’t claim ignorance, now at least.

The book has confounded critics. It is critical of the way the lockdown destroyed “the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.

Yet, in its opening pages, the book also acknowledges the lockdown was “necessary” and the timing was “roughly right”.

It also acknowledges tourism would have been destroyed anyway, and there would always be “considerable” economic disruption.

Not very consistent.

This book may have seemed like a good idea to Penk and perhaps a small faction of National MPs, but it is likely to have a negative impact on his party’s election chances.

I can’t see any reference to the book on the main National Party website, but it is prominently promoted on Penk’s National Party site where you can read the book: FLATTENING THE COUNTRY

Maybe Muller doesn’t feel flattened by Penk’s attack, but it doesn’t look good for the new National leader. the book doesn’t mention him at all, but has 14 mentions of Bridges.

 

Muller’s reshuffle of the National caucus

New National leader Todd Muller has announced his reshuffled line-up of caucus rankings and responsibilities.

Todd Muller announces shape of next Government

National Party Leader Todd Muller has announced the line-up of the next Government.

“New Zealand is facing perhaps the toughest time that almost anyone alive can remember.

“We are borrowing tens of billions of dollars to get us through this crisis. There is only one team that can spend it competently and well, and that is my National Party team.”

Mr Muller said he was particularly pleased senior MP Amy Adams had agreed to be the Minister for Covid-19 Recovery in his Government.

“Amy is tough and tested and will play a key role in getting you, your family and your community through this.”

Notable is that positions two to four are women, his deputy Nikki Kaye, Amy Adams who has changed her mind about quitting politics this year, and the formidable Judith Collins who has challenged for the leadership herself in the past.

So now three of the top four National MPs are women, four of the top eight, and seven of the top sixteen, female MPs have become a significant part of the National caucus.

However with Simon Bridges unranked “reflecting on his future” and Paula Bennett  dropped to thirteen it has been noted that Maori representation has slipped away (not that Bridges or Bennett addressed Maori issues much).

There has been a difference of descriptions for Bridges’ current situation.

Former leader Simon Bridges has said he needs time to reflect on his future. Mr Muller said there would be a place for him in his Cabinet should he decide to stay in politics.

But Newshub says Defiant Simon Bridges smacks down Todd Muller’s assertion he’s ‘considering his future’, plans to stay on

After being rolled on Friday by Todd Muller, a defiant Bridges has told Newshub he won’t be pushed from the party.

“Just to be clear, after the reshuffle today, I am not considering my future,” Bridges told Newshub. “Just having a small amount of time out to take stock after the loss on Friday.”

This was a direct smack-down to Muller suggesting Bridges was considering his future.

It doesn’t seem much like a ‘smackdown’ to me, just Bridges putting his situation in his own words. And it is likely to take him a bit of time to take stock of his political future.

The full lineup and allocation of portfolios here:

Click to access National_Party_portfolio_allocations.pdf

Time will tell how Muller and his team perform. They get their first chance in Parliament today in Question Time, it will be interesting to see how Muller handles his first stint there as leader.

Political operators and lobbyists being used by media promoting leadership coup

The media were always going to give a lot of coverage to a major party leadership challenge, as they did when Simon Bridges outed the challenge of Todd Muller and the subsequent showdown and change of leader. It was big political news and should have received prominent coverage.

But it also showed a major flaw of the media – their use of political operators and lobbyists to comment on the story.

Matthew Hooton is often used by the media in support of stories, even though he is a professional lobbyist. He was given a shot at promoting his agenda without having to disclose any possible involvement in the challenge.

And Michelle Boag suddenly popped up out of the woodwork to and was quoted a number of times in support of a change. She would be most unlikely to be an independent observer.

NZ Herald – Anatomy of a coup: How Todd Muller felled Simon Bridges and who helped him

This is behind their paywall, but a key part is repeated on Twitter:

Image

RNZ 18 May: Labour surges, National plummets in Newshub-Reid Research poll

“Clearly the leadership has failed. Simon Bridges is down to 4.5 percent. The public simply does not like him, that isn’t fair, the public simply did not like Andrew Little.

“He’s a perfectly pleasant person Andrew Little but the public did not like him, and so Labour had no choice in the end but to get rid of him, and National is now at that point.”

RNZ 19 May: Political poll results with Hooton and Jones

“This is a 25-point gap between National and Labour and that’s simply extraordinary. And the National Party has to take that very seriously, they are taking it seriously, although they do expect another poll to come out on Thursday from TVNZ by Colmar Brunton, and they’ll just see what that has to say.

“If it is as bad as this, I would expect there would be enormous pressure on the current leader and deputy leader to at least offer their resignations to the caucus.

However, a better showing in the Colmar Brunton polling might give Simon Bridges a lifeline, he says.

A “hunk” of National MPs are reluctant to be responding to polls, Hooton says.

“Their views on this is what’s going to decide Simon Bridges future.”

RNZ 21 May (audio): Collins key to National Party battle – Hooton  Political commentator Matthew Hooton speaks to Kim Hill.

RNZ 21 May: Simon Bridges’ tactics likely to lose him the leadership challenge – commentator

Political commentator Matthew Hooton said Bridges’ move to call the leadership vote was an own goal.

“I think it was another example of the poor political judgement that has plagued his political leadership quite frankly.

“I think Simon Bridges’ move yesterday was probably one of the most extraordinary acts of political harikari that we’ve seen.”

Hooton said Muller’s supporters would likely have lost their nerve there would have been no challenge.

“But by taunting Muller, forcing him and … Nikki Kaye to act … there is now a vote on Friday.

“And I think, the way this is going, Mr Bridges will lose and Muller will become leader of the party.

If Bridges survived the leadership vote it would cost the party any chance of winning the election in September, he said.

If Muller and Kaye failed in their challenge Bridges would demote them to the backbenches which would cost the party votes.

“He cannot afford to lose Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye from his senior team, or else he will lose support from both farmers, provincial New Zealanders, and also urban liberals in Auckland.

RNZ 22 May (audio): Commentator backing Muller to win National Party challenge Political commentator Matthew Hooton is supporting Muller to win – Kim Hill asked him how close does he expect the vote to be.

But Hooton was promoting leadership change – in a last NZ herald column last month (24 April) Matthew Hooton (column): Simon Bridges’ leadership beyond salvaging

Hooton is a regular on RNZ and in NZ Herald and is usually a worthwhile commentator, but it’s fair to ask whether his opinions promoted this week were independent of the leadership coup.

If it turns out he was working for Muller that would not reflect well on him due to lack of disclosure, but woukld also refelct poorly onn the media who give him free publicity.

Michelle Boag is not a regular on media, but managed to be given a say on the challenge too.

Newstalk ZB 19 May – Michelle Boag: Bridges could be another victim of Covid-19 fallout

Michelle Boag says it’s no surprise people have responded positively to the Prime Minister – whose ratings shot up to almost 60 percent.

She told Chris Lynch Arden’s been visible everywhere during the pandemic and Bridges hasn’t.

“There is no doubt there’s a good chance of him becoming yet another victim of Covid-19.”

She says that will be up to the Caucus to decide the leader’s fate.

RNZ 21 May: Former National Party president Michelle Boag on leadership challenge Former National Party president Michelle Boag speaks to Corin Dann.

RNZ 21 May: Simon Bridges’ tactics likely to lose him the leadership challenge – commentator

Former National Party president Michelle Boag told Morning Report Bridges shot himself in the foot by holding the vote tomorrow rather than next week.

This was because it made it harder for other leadership contenders to jump into the race, and those unhappy with Bridges’ leadership could rally around one candidate rather than their votes being split between a number of challengers.

However calling for the leadership vote was the right decision, she said.

“I think it’s the right thing for the National Party to get this sorted as quickly as possible and I think the caucus will be really pleased to have an early opportunity to do that.”

She said the need for a leadership vote was not solely prompted by the recent poll.

“It is about months and months, and sometimes years, of these MPs having negative feedback about their leader, not only from party members but from constituents.

“So while the poll may have been the thing that sparked [it] – the catalyst for this challenge – there’s no doubt this has been building for a long time.”

Boag popping up in media is a sure sign that she is promoting some sort of outcome.

I think that with important political issues, and leadership changes rank right up there, media should take care not to promote people with interests in the outcomes.

Cameron Slater, one of the most agenda driven political operators around, was given some oxygen by John Banks on radio during the week to talk about the National leadership challenge, but the only leader Slater seems interested in promoting these days is Winston Peters.

New National leader today looks likely

The National caucus is scheduled to meet at noon today to decide whether to dump Simon Bridges and replace him as their leader with probably Todd Muller (there are other rumours floating around but I doubt they will come to anything).

A bad poll for National and bridges on Tuesday gave impetus to a coup that seems to have alre3ady been fomenting. Bridges foorced the issue in Wednesday, calling the caucus meeting for Friday. Another bad poll for both National (29%) and Bridges (bugger all %) yesterday confirmed the party’s dire situation.

Media are talking as if it’s almost a done deal against Bridges. It’s possible he may step down before high noon.

Richard Harman (Politik): D-day for Bridges

Bridges camp was aware last night that defeat was likely today.

They must have been startled yesterday by reports of significant defections of caucus heavyweights from Leader Simon Bridges’ support. The confirmation on One News Colmar Brunton poll of National’s low rating appears to have simply added to the pressure for change.

It is even possible that Bridges might – for the sake of party unity — decide to resign before the caucus meeting.

NZ Herald – National Party showtime: Simon Bridges and Todd Muller prepare for leadership battle

Yesterday, neither the Bridges nor the Muller camp seemed certain they had the 28 votes needed, but both claimed to have strong numbers and one MP involved said it was looking “very, very close.”

The poll result may have changed that for MPs still wavering.

Muller’s camp said the poll results showed there was an urgent need for a change in leadership to reclaim that lost ground – and even Bridges’ own supporters acknowledged the poll would make it a lot harder for Bridges.

Newshub: National Party MPs prepare for midday Simon Bridges, Todd Muller leadership contest

Until Thursday night, the numbers looked to be evenly balanced with neither side willing to claim a majority but the 29 percent result seems to have pushed a group of undecided MPs towards the Muller camp, and potentially some who had been backing Bridges.

MPs talk about acting in the best interests of the party but what will be motivating many – namely list MPs and those in marginal seats – is self interest; with these poll numbers many would be out of Parliament.

So the outcome looks uncertain at this stage, publicly at least.

If Bridges hangs on it is likely to be dire for National. He already looks like damaged goods, and a close win will just highlight that lack of strong support for him in caucus, and the public are likely to see him as a lame duck leader.

If Muller wins it won’t be easy to even stop the bleeding of support let alone rebuilding it. He has had a low political profile and is unknown by most voters, but he has the advantages of not being Bridges and having no known baggage. He also has a probable advantage of polls just having been done – it will be a while before there’s another poll so will give him a chance to get established.

I would be most unlikely top vote for National led by Bridges, he has rarely impressed me and I don’t like the direction he seems to be taking the party.

If Muller or someone else I will take time to decide whether i think the change is for the better of not. It’s impossible to know how people will come across as leaders until they have had a go for a while.

We will find out some time today who will have the job of trying to revive a party with evaporating support.

Another awful poll for National (and great for Labour)

Today’s 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll is bad news for National, and very similar to the Newshub/Reid Research poll out earlier this week and also a recent leaked UMR poll:

  • Labour 59%
  • National 29%
  • Greens 4.7%
  • NZ First 3 %
  • ACT 2%
  • Maori Party 1%
  • The Opportunities Party 1%

Refused to answer 5%, undecided 11%. Fieldwork conducted 16-20 May.

The ‘preferred Prime Minister was as bad (and exceptional for Ardern):

  • Jacinda Ardern 63% (+21 from last October))
  • Simon Bridges 5% (-6)
  • Judith Collins 3%
  • Winston Peters 1% (-2)
  • Nikki Kaye 0.4%
  • Todd Muller 0.2%

Notable also is that both Greens and NZ First are under the threshold, and Peters is also dropping to negligible ‘preferred’.

So Labour very strong, Act ok (if Seymour can hold Epsom), Greens in the danger zone and NZ First/Peters really struggling.

Of course tomorrow’s National leadership showdown adds importance to this result.

David Farrar very quick off the mark with the poll results but no commentary: Latest poll
(but his Curia poll average hasn’t been updated for three months).

And Greg at The Standard was ready to rumble: The Colmar Brunton poll

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.

Last legs of leadership for Bridges

Talk of changing the Leader of the Opposition is not uncommon, especially by political opponents trying to stir, but after another very poor poll result for himself and for National it looks like the last legs of leadership for Simon Bridges.

In fact bridges says he knows of two challengers and the National leadership will be put to the test by next Tuesday at the latest (when the next caucus meeting is scheduled).

I don’t think National can afford to let it drag out that long.

Poll support has been turned badly against National, They started the year with two good results (RR 43.3% and CB 46%) but a leaked UMR polls this year have gone 38%, 35% to 29% last month (with Labour up to 55%).

And polling last week by Newshub/Reid Research matched this with National on 30.6% (Labour 56.5).

And while in ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ Bridges had been creeping up to 11% in February, UMR had him down to 7% lst month and RR has him on 4.5%.

The performance of bridges through the Covid crisis has been sometimes ok-ish but was often criticised for being out of touch. He also has a problem with his presentation. He often appears to be negative and whiny, and there is no easy fix to that.

there is now open support of an alternative leader from ex-Prime Minister and National leader Jim Bolger: Former PM Jim Bolger backs Todd Muller for next National leader

Bolger told RNZ’s Checkpoint that MP Todd Muller had the attributes to be National’s next leader.

Muller, who worked in Bolger’s office when he was Prime Minister, is understood to have the numbers to roll Simon Bridges, should its caucus make that decision when it meets next Tuesday.

Bolger said he was sure the National caucus was doing a lot of “soul-searching” as it tried to determine the way ahead.

I’m sure some of the National caucus will have informed Bolger of that. Him going public is an ominous sign for Bridges.

And after being defiant following Monday’s poll Bridges now concedes he has challengers. Newshub: MPs will challenge for National Party leadership, Simon Bridges confirms

“There is a focus on the leadership of the National Party. I understand that two of my colleagues will challenge, want to and seek to challenge, Paula Bennett and I for the leadership and the deputy leadership of the National Party,” he told The AM Show.

He refused to name the two colleagues, how he came to know of the challenge, if he had spoken to the MPs, or when they will announce their run for the top jobs.

“I think it is for them to state their leadership intentions. I want to give them the dignity of being able to make their statements,” Bridges said.

Bridges called for the issue to be resolved quickly so the focus can get back on Kiwis. He said he will put his leadership to the test by Tuesday at the latest.

“I am very confident that I will win, but I do want to put it to the test as I say, so we can quickly resolve this and get back to the things that matters for New Zealanders.

When a leader in a weak and weakening position concedes he has challengers it looks like he is toast.

National’s pollster David Farrar as good as confirms the leadership challenge at Kiwiblog: National’s leadership

As with any major political event I will cover it on Kiwiblog, but as has been my long standing practice I won’t share my opinions on what I think Caucus should do… (because he works for the party and because he knowns many MPs very well).

My only advice to National is to not let things fester.


Todd Muller looks the most likely replacement. He has been MP for Bay of Plenty since 2014, and while not well known has done a lot of work on National’s climate change policy, which largely supports what the Government is doing.

He has a healthy majority, getting more than double the votes of his Labour challenger last election.

Judith Collins is another likely challenger, but the ongoing word is she doesn’t have a lot of support among National MPs. Cameron Slater has stopped openly promoting her. All National MPs seem to have distanced themselves from Slater (he switched to promoting Winston Peters three years ago and that appears to be his current agenda) but the taint remains for Collins. Salter keeps dumping on just about everyone else in National.


I was going to post about Stuff giving Bridges some free self promotion – Simon Bridges: Five things we need to do to get New Zealand working after Covid-19 – but that seems to be a last gasp now.


Bridges is being interviewed on NZ now. He starts by diverting to ‘focussing on the issues of the day’.

But he is refocussed quickly and he concedes what has been reported already without naming the challengers.

He switches to electioneering again but is refocussed again. He says he is very confident he and Paula Bennett have the numbers, but they all say that.

He claims he has an ‘overwhelming majority’ support.

He says he isn’t surprised by the polls when asked about Colmar Brunton who is polling right now (to be published tomorrow apparently) and in the current circumstances that is unlikely to help Bridges.


Judith Collins has ruled out challenging.

All the word is that Todd Muller is challenging with Nikki Kaye deputy (the two people are a single ticket).

 

Pressure mounts for National and NZ First, Greens still bordeline

The latest Reid Research poll may well be the best result that Labour and Jacinda Ardern get unless the transition out of lockdown and getting the economy up and running again goes smoothly.

But with National on 30% and Simon bridges dropping to 4.5% as preferred Prime Minister the pressure continues to build over leadership, and also for survival for many National MPs.

If National drop to around 30% in the election in September they are unlikely to get any list MPs back into Parliament, and their may be an overhang with their electorate MPs possibly adding up to more than their MMP proportion of votes.

Bridges has sometimes seemed ok but often comes across poorly. The key reason why there are not challengers queueing up is that no one else wants to become leader facing likely defeat.

However the risk with keeping Bridges on is that he could drag National down further, which would be bad for list MPs and MPs in marginal electorates wanting to keep their jobs.


NZ First have not polled over 5% this year in published polls, and slipped to 2.7% in the latest.

Winston Peters hasn’t even featured on ‘preferred Prime Minister’ coverage of the latest poll.

It’s unwise to count NZ First out before an election but they have been dumped before while in Government, in 2008. Each recovery mission must be getting harder for Peters and riskier for his party.

With Labour polling over 50% they wouldn’t need NZ First even if the latter survives the election. Challenging times for Peters.


Greens made the cut, just, getting 5.5%, but they have been struggling to keep over the threshold in polls and they are openly struggling to get donations.

Labour’s popularity may benefit the Greens as long as it doesn’t suck oxygen and support from the minor party.

Not having a single strong and prominent leader works against the Greens beyond their core of dedicated supporters.

And on current polling Labour wouldn’t need the Greens to form a Government. Even if they formed a coalition the Greens are likely to be in a weak bargaining position.


A lot could happen over they next four months, and political support can evaporate as quickly as it can build.

But as Covid continues to dominate the news and public attention, and as Ardern continues to receive adulation and deserved praise, voters may ignore the inadequacies of some of her ministers and keep dishing out support.

National came close but always failed to get enough votes to rule alone under MMP.

In the current circumstances and with current levels of support Labour and Ardern look to be in the strongest position of any party to win a majority alone.

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill under urgency in Parliament

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency. So far just the National Party has opposed the Bill.

The Bill gives the Police the legal ability to walk into anyone’s home without a warrant, so there are risks to civil rights and liberty.

It is being rushed under urgency to try to make the move to Level 2 tonight legal, but it leaves open the question about whether the first move to Level 2 in March may have been illegal.

David Parker:

“This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.”

Michael Woodhouse:

“I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.”

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.”


Attorney General David Parker introduced the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill yesterday:

This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. This is designed to last for a maximum of two years although can be brought to an end earlier if the threat passes.

New Zealanders have been on a precarious journey combatting this virus. We’re not at our final destination yet, but together we’ve made extraordinary progress through the largely voluntary efforts of our people, who accepted the need for unprecedented actions to isolate ourselves in bubbles to cut off the chains of infection.

We went hard and we went early to fight a virus for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. We know it can hide and spread through those with no symptoms, and around the world we’ve seen the devastation and loss of life it can cause, especially in aged care and in dementia units. We’ve negotiated difficult terrain and have broken the chain of community transmission.

In the meantime, we’ve improved our stocks and supply lines for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and reagents as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and distribution. We’ve ramped up testing and the quality and capacity of track and tracing. We’ve minimised the damage the virus would have otherwise done to our people and to our economy.

To date, restrictions at alert levels 3 and 4 were given legal effect by notices under section 70 of the Health Act, in conjunction with the state of emergency under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and the Economic Preparedness Act. To support alert levels 3 and 4, the Director-General has issued notices to close premises, except those providing essential services, prohibiting congregation in outdoor places, and require people to remain at home in their bubble except to access essentials and to exercise. These orders are lawful under the Health Act, and the restrictions proportionate to the scale of the COVID-19 threat.

I think there’s doubt about that, as pointed out here: New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

That said, some aspects of the Health Act do need to be modernised and adapted, and this is particularly true for the detailed level 2 measures, which are not well suited to the existing Health Act and Civil Defence Emergency Management regime. This bill provides new enforceable measures that don’t depend on a state of emergency being in force.

We went into Level 2 and Level 3 before the State of Emergency was announced in March.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.

We acknowledge that it is unusual—though not unprecedented—for a constable to have warrantless power of entry into a private dwelling house. This is due—the fact that it is unusual—to the high expectation of privacy that citizens have in these places.

The extraordinary risk posed by COVID-19—I will cover instances in later speeches; I haven’t got time to detail that now—and the fact that it can be spread readily in large social gatherings, whether in public or in private, justifies the power in these circumstances and the limits it places on rights.

There are safeguards in the bill so that a constable must report every time a warrantless entry power is exercised, summarising the circumstances and the reason why the power needed to be exercised.

This bill will create a new infringement offence regime. Some breaches will be dealt with as an infringement offence, and an intentional breach will be a criminal offence which may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction. An infringement offence regime gives police another graduated step in their enforcement options where the breach is not serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

The bill also amends the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 to ensure a nationally consistent approach to the response and to management of risks arising from COVID-19, and to better deal with concurrent emergencies that are not COVID-19 but which might arise during the period of the COVID-19 response.

We believe this legislation is needed to appropriately continue our response to the unique and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Simon Bridges in reply:

… it’s with regret that I say we have on this side of the House in the National Party, real concerns with this bill. You’ll hear from other members of National about, I am sure, civil liberty concerns—concerns with our freedoms as a people that have been long fought for—in the speeches and contributions. I want to simply place on record my concerns in two areas, really, but four for completeness: funerals, tangi; churches or places of worship; enforcement; and the length of time that this bill—or law, as it will, I think, become—applies for.

…this bill, in coming here, has had very limited scrutiny. There will be, as it becomes law, no select committee. It’s a case of, on this side of the House—I don’t know about the support parties in Government—us having it for less than 24 hours. I think it was Geoffrey Palmer who lamented this Parliament being the fastest lawmaker in the West. Dare I say it, to the members opposite, in recent times we have got it wrong; passing things that we didn’t even know we were passing. So the room for error in this bill, I suggest, is incredibly high, given the legal complexities.

Michael Woodhouse:

I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.

I’m old enough to remember carless days, wage and price freezes, reducing the road speed limit from 100 kilometres to 80 kilometres per hour — that’s right: SMPs — by an executive that road roughshod over this parliamentary process. Even they pale into comparison with the influence and executive fiat that is being exerted on this country by this bill.

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.

Let’s be very clear. If there was a question about whether the level 4 and level 3 lockdown was legally allowed under section 70 of the Health Act—and that is a question yet to be answered—then there’s no doubt that the sort of influence that the Government wants to have in level 2 is not. So if the Government wants to act in this way, it does need to pass legislation. But, as I said in my previous intervention, that is the very time when this place matters most, when the rule of law matters most, and where changes to that law need to be carefully thought through, well-considered, consulted on, robustly debated, and definitely not rushed through.

Now, the Minister of Health, very clearly says there is haste—understandable. But this Government has had three months. I think this Government did get legal advice that said that there was a question mark over their ability to act at level 3 and 4, and, clearly, they wanted to continue to impose themselves on New Zealanders’ lives under level 2 in a way that was entirely inconsistent given what we heard about what level 2 would look like. And so they’re going to pass that bill.

But not even the Minister of Health knows his own legislation, because he said in his speech that he will have to consult with the Director-General of Health. Actually, the bill doesn’t say that; it says quite the opposite. At subclause (2) of clause 9, on page 5, when making a section 11 order, “Nothing in this section requires the Minister to receive specific advice from the Director-General about the content of a proposed order or proposal to amend, extend, or revoke an order.” So he doesn’t need to consult the director-general, and not even Dr Clark knew that.

 I’m sad that at this stage in the process the National Party cannot support this bill, because we want this to be a team of 5 million, but it’s the Government that is racing off in a direction that we cannot support, curtailing the freedom of New Zealanders without their right to have their say. Unless there are material changes to it, which will be signalled, it will be difficult to support this subsequently.

Ron Mark spoke for NZ First but his speech was mainly an attack on National with little altention given to the Bill.

Julie Ann Genter for the Green Party:

I rise in support of this bill.

This bill, I think, is absolutely necessary to ensure that all New Zealanders will benefit from the period of lockdown that we’ve already been in, and will benefit from being assured that that the rules will be able to be enforced. Because even if the vast majority of New Zealanders embrace these rules and want to stop the spread of COVID-19, it would only take a small number who ignore the rules to cause an outbreak that could quite quickly become very serious and cause us to have to move back to a stricter level.

So, of course, the vast majority of New Zealanders support the actions that have been taken thus far. I think they will absolutely respect the rules in level 2, which are not at all arbitrary, but absolutely informed by what is going to prevent the spread of the illness.

Many people were pushing boundaries if not overstepping them under Level 3 over the last two weeks.

Of course, the Green Party would always prefer that there would be a select committee, even a very short one, and we would’ve liked to have seen that. But we also understand the need for urgency right now, given the move to level 2 at—was it at midnight on Thursday morning or 11:59 Wednesday? So recognising that this is a very, very short period of time and that there was a desire to move back to level 2 sooner rather than later, then we can understand this.

But the Bill didn’t have to be only introduced to Parliament the day before the we go back down to Level 2.

David Seymour (ACT):

I rise on behalf of ACT in support of this bill to its first reading. The reason ACT supports the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill is very simple. It’s about the rule of law, and the rule of law matters because if it means anything to be a New Zealander, it is to live freely under democracy and the rule of law: to be able to send representatives to this House to make laws that are clear, that we can read for ourselves and understand what the law is. Having the rule of law protects the weakest people in our society because they can see it written down and it applies equally to every person.

But, unfortunately, I can only support this bill to the first reading, through this urgent process, because it has some real problems. I can understand the Government going through urgency. I won’t relitigate the issues that got us here, except to say that it has been four months–actually, nearly four and a half months–since it became clear to countries such as Taiwan that there might be an issue.

The idea that this has all suddenly happened and the Government has to rush Parliament through urgency now is a poor reflection on the preparedness of the Government. But, no matter, we’re here, and we have to rush this through urgency so we can get to level 2 lawfully and quickly. Understood.

There was a lot of debate over the severe restrictions on funerals still.

The Bill looks certain to pass, probably today, with the support of Labour, NZ First and the Green Party and possibly ACT.

First and second reading votes were the same:

  • Ayes 64 New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1.
  • Noes 56 New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Hansard (Tuesday): https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20200512_20200512_34

Hansard (Wednesday: Tuesday, 12 May 2020 (continued on Wednesday, 13 May 2020) – Volume 745