At least Bridges is getting some publicity

Simon bridges has been nearly as invisible as Jacinda Ardern. The latter has been on maternity leave. The former has been touring the country meeting and talking to as many people as possible, but apart from local news that tends to be boring repeat speeches for the media.

As acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has been enjoying the limelight, and substantially overshadowing Bridges.

National are having their first conference in opposition for a decade, so Bridges is at least getting some publicity. Some of it self inflicted:

Not a great way of looking like a fresh new leader.

Newshub: Battle lines drawn at National Party conference

The battle lines have been drawn between Winston Peters and Simon Bridges, suggesting there’s little chance that National and New Zealand First could work together at the next election.

Mr Bridges is facing one of his biggest challenges yet as leader of the Opposition, convincing his own party he’s the man for the job.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard opened the National Party conference with a big ole whinge about last year’s election result.

“A very disappointing and unjust, unfair political result,” he called it.

That was very unhelpful for National. It’s time they moved on from being jilted by Peters at the post-election matchmaking, but, Bridges made things worse agreeing with it

“That result was a little hard to take.”

“I don’t expect the prime ministership to be handed to me on a platter.”

But Peters has been dominating Bridges, as he did again yesterday.

If, like last election, Mr Peters has anything to do with it, it won’t be.

“The chances of Simon Bridges lasting the next election – on the past National Party record – is not good,” says Mr Peters.

“I’ll tell you why Simon’s gone – Simon’s discovered so much of his past, a bit like Columbus discovered America, by accident.

“All of a sudden he’s decided that he’s a Māori. Nobody knew that before he got there.”

Mr Bridges responded, saying, “Winston gets weirder and weirder by the day.”

Mr Howard is his idol.

“John is my absolute hero – absolutely.”

I doubt there will be many Kiwis who give bridges any credit for worshipping a past it Aussie politician.

Stuff’s headline was negative for National: Fresh hostilities erupt between Winston Peters and National

Bad blood between Winston Peters and the National Party has erupted in a fresh war of words after the NZ First leader warned “the jackals” would soon be circling deputy Paula Bennett.

As National gathered for its first party conference since last year’s defeat, Peters also predicted leader Simon Bridges would be gone before the next election.

National president peter Goodfellow didn’t help: National dodged a ‘whisky-swilling’ bullet in Winston Peters

National Party President Peter Goodfellow has mounted an attack on Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, saying National had “dodged a whisky-swilling, cigarette-smoking, double-breasted and irrational bullet”.

Speaking at the National Party conference, Goodfellow said that in hindsight National had a lucky escape in Peters’ decision to side with Labour after the election last year and to send National into Opposition.

Senior MP Nick Smith later echoed Goodfellow’s sentiments, saying his worst time in politics was when he was around the Cabinet table with Peters in the 1990s.

National missed getting the numbers to form a government without Peters last year.

It is a very challenging goal if their aim is somehow sustain their support through a term in opposition and then grow it enough to form a government on their own in 2020, because at the moment that looks like their only option.

Bridges may be working well with James Shaw on climate change, but I don’t think Green party members will ever accept a coalition with National.

So National Party conference a bride short of a wedding

The National Party conference is something like a wedding with a nervous groom, something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

The blue came in the new hues of blue on the conference programme, more calm and muted shades than the bright teal preferred by former Prime Minister John Key.

That programme cover promised the ‘new”. “new team, new ideas, new zealand ” it read, all in trendy lower case. The other ‘new’ was National’s place in Opposition rather than Government.

The old came in the form of Key himself, as well as reassuring noises for the more traditional National supporters from leader Simon Bridges that the party would stick to the old when it came to economic policies.

The borrowed was in the form of the announcement to restore and expand charter schools – a policy that was initially the Act Party’s.

It is a potentially risky conference as National’s first in Opposition in a decade and with Bridges struggling to get traction as preferred Prime Minister.

There was no open questioning about Bridges’ leadership or blood-letting about the election outcome.

But nor did anyone seem to question whether gunning for Peters was really a good idea given the one thing missing from National’s wedding party was a bride to walk up the aisle with in 2020.

Bringing the Popular John Key back into the limelight was a risk for Bridges, who is a big contrast in appeal.

Last night on TV news Bridges showed all the charisma of a wet fish.

Image result for cartoon wet fish

The National conference will resume today, and Bridges has a big chance for impact with his keynote address.

If he studies how Helen Clark transformed herself from an unimpressive also-ran into a three term leader – very rapidly – he might start to appeal as a PM-in-waiting, but I doubt that will have happened overnight.

Talking about ‘my people’ and ‘my health team’ makes him sound like a try-hard leader rather than an actual leader.

He could hope that voters don’t care how he looks until the next election campaign.

But his problem (apart from himself) is the media, who are at risk at writing off his chances and covering him accordingly. They can be the death knell for political leadership, as Daavid Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little found out.

Bridges has already tried the family/kids thing but no one cares about that. He can’t have a baby so is stuffed on that approach.

He may somehow surprise today. He sort of has to to make any progress.