Peter Williams: Simon Bridges is the Taine Randell of NZ Politics

Opinion 19/02/2019

By Peter Williams, Magic Mornings host.

The second political poll in 2 weeks was out last night. The numbers were very close to last week on the Newshub Reid Research poll - Labour 45, National 42, Greens 6 and NZ First 3. In preferred Prime Minister, it’s a one horse race - Jacinda Ardern 44, Simon Bridges 6, Judith Collins 6 and Winston Peters 3.

So Labour is having one of its all time great summers, despite the extraordinary Kiwibuild failure and a few other missteps along the way over Waitangi Day. It’s having no effect at all.

National are still strong, but the line about how great it is to still having a poll rating in the 40s 18 months into opposition is beginning to cut no ice because the reality is they aren’t growing their vote.

It will probably stay in the 40s all the way to the next election because that appears to be their core constituency, but the Ardern effect and the continuing presence of the Greens at 5 percent or just over means the Nats chances of getting back next year are looking pretty slim unless they either turbo charge things with some drop dead, everybody-loves-it type policy or they get a big time, all star leader. And I struggle to see either of those things happening in the near future.

The shots on TV of Jacinda Ardern at the Art Deco festival in Napier were just extraordinary, sitting in the back of an open topped vintage car giving it the royal wave as she was driven down the street. I haven’t seen that on our streets since Meghan Markle came here last year. It was Princess Di stuff, but Jacinda is carrying it off with aplomb and is, I reckon, 70 or 80 percent of the reason why Labour is where they are. The fact they’re not actually doing anything or passing any law to achieve the things they said they would do is just irrelevant. She is waving the magic dust and it’s settling on somewhere around 45 or 46 percent of the voters, and that’s enough.

The Greens are still strong. One wonders why with the thoroughly unpleasant Marama Davidson as co-leader and the not very courageous Golriz Gahraman - she of the questionable refugee back story - in the caucus.

Maybe the clean cut James Shaw and his climate change agenda is enough to maintain 5 percent and if he wants to spend more and more of our money on various welfare reforms and tax us more and more just because we may have  a few assets, well he’ll never have popular support. But there’s enough of a far left grouping to keep that 5 percent alive, and that’s enough.

As for New Zealand First, well we said in 2008 they’d be history after they didn’t get in Parliament. They came back, somehow, but you get the feeling they’ve sold quite a few of their core supporters down the river, especially on immigration, and they’re down to 3 percent this time, and last week too and only 4 percent before Christmas in the TV 1 poll then. Winston will say they’ll come back - but will they really?

Then there’s the Nats - no friends, no chance of getting to 50 percent, and their only hope is that both NZ First and the Greens go under 5 percent and they somehow get ahead of Labour again.

It’s not looking likely, and in Simon Bridges they have a leader that I reckon can now be called the Taine Randall of New Zealand politics.

Remember Taine. A lovely guy, highly educated, from a modest background, Maori, handsome and a good rugby player who was appointed to the second most important job in the country -  All Black captain.

He took us to the 1999 Rugby World Cup but despite having all the attributes, we thought, of an outstanding leader, he just couldn’t do it.

On the field, he struggled to lead under pressure, off it he failed to articulate or present well as the face of his team and then when he got bitten by some French teeth in a ruck in the semi final at the Rugby World Cup, he didn’t want to take it any further.

So he was a man with, you’d think, all the qualities and qualifications to be a great leader but who in the end just couldn’t cut it.

Simon Bridges is looking like doing the same thing as the National Party leader. He should be the face of the future for this country. From a modest upbringing, getting an Oxford education, a dashing young Maori lawyer - what more could a country want to lead it in the 21st century.  Well, sadly a bit more than what Simon has to offer in terms of strength of personality, strength of presentation, and good old fashioned charisma. He didn’t fire Jami-Lee Ross from Parliament when he should have, and frankly he just cannot stamp his authority on the country.

But if not him, who to lead the National Party?

After this latest poll, I am beginning to wonder if the next National Prime Minister is even in Parliament yet.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Mornings, 9am - 12pm.