I have to say right now that I really dislike leadership challenges and leadership spills in politics.
I know there’s a lot of people who love them. People like Barry and Mike and Heather. They love the blood and the guts, the competition, the drama and the disguised conflict.
But the whole thing leaves me cold. They’re sad and tawdry affairs. A brutal battle to find a winner and a loser, where even the loser loses.
Because a leadership challenge only happens when a party is weak. It’s a public sign of that weakness. It means a party is looking inward rather than doing the job that the people who voted for them wanted them to do and that weakens democracy.
Which is why this leadership spat is even more sad and tragic. At this extraordinary time in this extraordinary crisis where the country is being asked to do extraordinary things we have never needed a functioning opposition more. To hold the government to account.
But instead they’ve embarked on a sideshow that will gain attention of the wrong kind and allow the government a free ride for a week.
It’s terribly sad that members of the National caucus have chosen to do this just as their leader was finally showing his chops fronting the Pandemic Response Committee. He was beginning to be part of the solution instead of part of the whingers carping from the wings.
In crises like this oppositions don’t stand a chance. That was evident in the Reid Research poll where the support for the lockdown was at 91 per cent. There’s no fundamental debate over the measures but there’s a lot to debate about the method. Bridges was getting his foot in the door and now his people are yanking him back outside.
And a question I have of you. Is there anyone in the National Caucus who you think could have done a better job than Mr Bridges through the past 3 months? There is no heir apparent.
So what is the play here? Other than a pantsing in the election? Is it preparing for 2023? I should hope not. You play to win all the time and with Simon Bridges instant reaction and fighting challenge to his challenges you know that’s the way he thinks. As his wife says, he’s a dirty little street fighter.
It’s just terrible timing. This week we’ve seen no new cases of Covid. On Monday, no-one entered the country and no-one left. We’ve become a clean and clear ark surrounded by a moat. The safest place on Earth.
So you can argue that now’s the time to release the country. Now’s the time to get rid of the empty middle seats in the domestic planes. Now’s the time to let churches congregate.
Now’s the time for an opposition to be calling for Level 1 to aid the businesses and community groups that continue to suffer.
But they’re not. Instead the opposition are worried more about themselves than the rest of the country.