Simon Bridges has a job to do. Take back the Government benches in 2020. He is the Leader of the Opposition in the New Zealand Parliament, Leader of the National Party. His job is in two parts:
- Is to destroy the policies of the 6th Labour Government.
- Come up with a credible alternative policy platform that New Zealanders like enough to walk away from Labour
Unfortunately for National, when environmental and economic pragmatism is needed, Mr Bridges is a conservative who believes the core philosophies of the National Party and the policy making traditional to these philosophies is just fine. Yet Mr Bridges must in the next twelve months destroy the policy making of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and make her utopian vision look bad enough that New Zealanders are convinced to vote blue instead of red.
But if Mr Bridges is willing to be pragmatic about environmental law and environmental issues there are things that he could do which would help the environment and the economy at the same time. These two alone will not be enough. and he will have to have sound social policy and the right people to push it. To make it happen though, he would need to replace a few lieutenants – Amy Adams who was one of the more pragmatic voices on judicial and women’s affairs is leaving Parliament. Chris Finlayson who was Attorney General in the Government of Prime Minister John Key and Bill English has also departed.
Mr Bridges faces another problem. I highly doubt that New Zealand First will work with National again whilst Winston Peters is leader. I can understand National’s disgust with New Zealand First after electing to support a smaller party instead of handing National an historic 4th term – which I think would lead to a decisive Labour victory in 2020 with well over 50 red seats if Mr English had been returned to power. National would have to swallow what I imagine would be a massive rat whole.
And then there is A.C.T. Its Leader David Seymour would doubtlessly be expecting a Ministerial Warrant in any negotiations as part of a future National-led Government. Mr Seymour has no time for climate change Also, would Mr Seymour be prepared to work with one of A.C.T.’s biggest enemies, New Zealand First and could Mr Bridges keep the two happy in the improbable situation where they agreed to?
But perhaps the biggest problem facing Simon Bridges is the same thing that toppled successive Labour leaders between 2008-2017: preferred Prime Minister ratings. Ms Ardern might be down on the historic high she hit after the Christchurch mosques were attacked, but she is well ahead of Mr Bridges who is being challenged by fellow National M.P. Judith Collins, whose preferred Prime Minister rating is the same as his.
National has a long road ahead of it if the party wants to return to the Government benches in 2020. It has some big decisions to make around refreshing the Members of Parliament so that they do not become deadwood, policy and building a rapport with New Zealanders. There are deep crevasses in the form of environmental and social policy on one side and the deregulated, minimalistic governance that A.C.T. favours on the other side. Mr Peters and Mr Seymour represent potential obstacles or opportunities depending on their own parties fortune.
It could be a very interesting 12 months.