Kate Hawkesby: Labour has been handed its second term

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 28 February 2018, 6:52AM
Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett were all smiles yesterday, but will they still be grinning in 2020? (Photo / NZ Herald)

Labour’s been handed its second term.

Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett won’t do it. I don’t see them beating Labour. Although pundits picked Bridges, the surprise was Bennett.

The assumption was she’d be relegated to the back blocks for awhile given she’d had the finger pointed her way over being the Achilles heel at the last election. But she’s hung on and hanging on in tough political times is a skill. So kudos to her. Maybe caucus is enamoured with her “zip it sweetie” style. 

As for Bridges, he may turn out to be a space saver. I can’t see him going all the way to 2020 with the core support base intact. National’s support base is traditional, it’s old school. It doesn’t care about being ‘progressive’ or buying into ‘generational shift’ rhetoric.  The support base would’ve wanted a Collins or a Joyce, they could’ve perhaps tolerated an Adams.. but Bridges and Bennett?

The National Party has done to its core support base what TVNZ 1 did to its core audience:  ignored them. You ignore the older demographic at your peril. They are faithful, have deep pockets, and institutional knowledge. They’re not inclined to buy into the spin that reality TV beats a good doco. So watch the polls.

What else does this pick tell us?

Well, it tells us the Nats have indeed been spooked by ‘Jacinda-mania’. They’ve bought into the line that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Well that’s the media’s view. More important than what people like me think, is what National’s own members think.

At his first press conference as leader, Bridges threw out words like “ambitious”, “positive”, “future”, “modernise”.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jacinda should feel flattered. She should also feel assured. She knows Bridges well, she knows his style and that’s an advantage.

National’s pillars, Joyce, Brownlee, Coleman, Collins, where they end up in the reshuffle is key.

Will they stay or go? And where’s Adams in all of this? What about Mitchell? How cohesive is a party with so many bridesmaids who wanted to be bride.

This is a very different looking party to what the party faithful are used to.

I’m happy to be wrong, a Bridges-Bennett partnership might fly, and good luck to them if they do. 

Here’s one thing they’ve got right: they are a partnership, a team. There are two names and two faces fronting up, unlike this current government which seems to be all about one person, one name, one face.

That’s something Labour need to think about moving forward. When Jacinda goes off to have that baby in June, you don’t want a cavernous gap where the media luvvies stare blankly into the abyss wondering who to talk to now that their political Beyonce’s gone.

But back to Bridges and Bennett. Both Westies, both Maori, those are big advantages. If they do go the distance, I look forward to them at least doing the decent thing and turning the crown cars into Holden Kingswoods.

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