So in the wake of todays developments in the National Party here’s what I know about New Zealanders.
They like their leaders to have a heart and a brain. They like them to have a funny bone and a backbone. They like them to be well balanced and not radical but also innovative and nimble. They like them to lead but also to listen.
And that’s what tripped National and Simon Bridges up.
Simon played the Covid crisis completely wrong and so coming off an already low base he continued to fall and drag his party down with him.
His problem is that he took his job as leader of the opposition too literally. He appeared to oppose everything while showing little compassion.
He appeared to oppose the lockdown. He opposed welfare as it saved middle class National voters as they went to the wall. He criticised Saint Ashley Bloomfield. As he fumed, the Prime Minister showed compassion for her fellow New Zealanders and said we’d come through this. Mr Bridges was in effect telling us we wouldn’t.
I think the real nail in his coffin from the recent polls is the finding that 90 per cent of new Zealanders approve of what we’ve done so far. Mr Bridges was in a very small minority.
With 20/20 hindsight the National Party strategy should have been to accept their period of invisbility and wait until the Government made some real mistakes, and then attack with logic and ability. Start opposing when there’s something you can oppose. Start speaking up when the 1pm Jacinda show closed.
Sadly for Simon Bridges, that time is now. Closing borders, locking down and subsidising wages for an interim period has been the standard practice around the world. The real skill is returning the economy to working order.
As the economic fallout churns through our society this winter the nation is looking for leaders with compassion and good ideas. The government appear a little bereft right now. A bit of infrastructure, an investment in DHBs and rail and 8000 State Houses doesn’t seem like a plan to help us get through December.
Todd Muller and Nicki Kaye’s challenge is to show a compassion towards hurting New Zealanders which Simon Bridges couldn’t and spark up the imagination of what life could be with them rather than continually telling us we’re going to hell in a handcart.
Funnily enough that is Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson’s job too.
A bit of heart and a bit of brain please. A little bit of blue and a little bit of red. Good luck to everyone. And may the best ideas and the best team win.