Simon Bridges: Boris Johnson has 'buffoon-like quality'

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 24 July 2019, 3:06PM

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the incoming UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a "buffoon-like quality".

Asked if he was calling Johnson a buffoon, Bridges said: "Well, millions have. But, what's also true is having met him, he's very impressive and there is much more to him than that. He's very smart."

He qualified "buffoon-like" by saying that Johnson was someone who "sometimes gets a bit of marmalade on his chin, who sometimes doesn't say quite the right things, whose personal life can be interesting".

"But for all of that, he's an impressive guy."

Johnson, the former mayor of London, swept to a convincing victory overnight, winning 66 per cent of the Conservative Party members' votes to defeat Jeremy Hunt.

But with a wafer-thin majority in the House of Commons, he still faces a huge challenge to see Brexit through.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said if the UK had an orderly exit from the EU, New Zealand would be one of the first cabs off the rank for free trade talks.

"Unfortunately a no-deal Brexit [would] mean that there will be, let's be honest, a certain amount of chaos, and no one benefits from that, New Zealand included."

She said irrespective of the Brexit outcome, New Zealand will be ready to start FTA talks as soon as the UK was in a position to do so.

Ardern, who is yet to meet Johnson, dismissed Bridges' "buffoon" comment.

"I don't describe people in politics in that way."

Asked to describe him in one word, she said he was "seasoned".

"I've sent him a message saying 'kia ora, Boris', and he sent one back, 'kia ora Jacinda' ... He's already familiar with New Zealand. That's a great starting point."

Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who sent Johnson a congratulatory text last night, said he expected Johnson to keep his word and keep New Zealand at the front of the FTA queue.

"Highly intelligent, different, interesting, quite charismatic," Peters said when asked to describe Johnson.

He said the UK-New Zealand relationship would be better off with Johnson at the helm.

Johnson favours a "hard Brexit", whereby the UK would be completely cut out of the EU and taking it out of the single market but would have more control over its borders.

Peters shares this view.

"The sooner [British MPs] face the facts that it will be a hard landing and prepare for that and get on with the future, the better," he said in January.

Peters calls Johnson a friend and told a select committee last month that he would become Prime Minister.

"He's going to be the Prime Minister, and he's going to be an excellent Prime Minister. He's got what the ordinary British people want – character and courage," Peters told the Foreign Affairs and Trade select committee.

Last year Peters and Johnson met in the Churchill War Rooms in London to discuss the UK's plan to scale up its engagement in the Pacific.

In mid-2017, Johnson came to New Zealand and said New Zealand and the UK have a strong relationship.

 

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