Look deeper than the headline moves in National’s reshuffle to find the longer-term significance. Those moves included Paul Goldsmith winning the prize of being Opposition Finance spokesman and Gerry Brownlee in taking on Foreign Affairs, not just because he has the capacity to deploy a bit of humour in needling Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, but because he is signalling he is up for another term.
Insiders point to the leap through the ranks of Hutt South MP Chris Bishop from the cross benches. Still only 36, but in his second term, Bishop has converted the once traditional Labour stronghold of Hutt South into a National seat.
In Parliament as Opposition spokesman on Police he has been effective in puncturing the government’s promises on building up police numbers by 1800. Generally he has kept Police Minister Stuart Nash on his toes and kept police issues close to top of the political agenda—something that some of his seniors have been able to do in their areas of responsibility.
Labelled a former Bridges opponent (because he did not back Simon in the leadership ballot), he has received a big promotion, moving into the shadow cabinet and picking up the transport and regional development portfolios.
He now has Phillip Twyford in his sights, with the advantage – as a local advocate – of having been pushing hard for key roading projects such as the Melling interchange. The current government, against the evidence of its vital importance to the Hutt Valley region, has pushed this out to 2028.
Bishop also picks up Regional Development where he has plenty of scope to show his political ability as he takes on NZ First’s flamboyant Shane Jones.
Point of Order sees Bishop as clearly a “comer” in the National Party, and after doing the hard yards on the backbenches, he can now make a real impact.
Nicola Willis, who came into Parliament after Steven Joyce pulled the plug in 2018, has been spokesperson on early childhood education and is now given Youth as an additional area of responsibility.
National sees itself as vulnerable particularly to the Green Party among younger voters and Nicola gets a chance to shape policy in what will be a key sector in the 2020 election. Although she is relatively new in Parliament she served as a backroom adviser in National over several terms and at 38 she, like Bishop, has the capacity to generate new ideas (which National badly needs).
Other interesting changes to National’s line-up include Todd Muller taking on Forestry in addition to Climate Change, and Tim Macindoe becoming the Shadow Attorney-general.