Make-or-break year for Bridges – he must prove he is PM material without shouting down Ardern

Already  it is shaping  as  the  most challenging year  for  National  since it   lost   the Treasury benches  in  2017.  For  Simon Bridges,  it’s  make-or-break   for  his leadership.

Going  head-to-head  with the  Jacinda  phenomenon,  he has  little chance of  monstering  her   in  television  broadcasts,  and even if he did it could backfire  on  National.

Bridges’  task is  more  complex.    He has  to prove himself  as   the  Prime  Minister-in-waiting,  clearly   the underdog  in a contest   where he  cannot be  seen to be   shouting down  his  opponent.

Yet he  must win enough  support  to  overwhelm  Labour  and  its  coalition allies  combined – a   feat   which  far more popular  National leaders  (John Key or Bill English)   could not  achieve.

He  will  need  more than a  cunning plan,  or  the  social  media  wizardry of the  Topham Guerin  team  (who were  credited   with a  key role  first  in Scott Morrison’s  surprise  election success and  then  with  Boris  Johnson’s triumph  in the UK.

So  how   could  National  frame  an  election-winning  strategy?

Labour has  given  it  stacks of ammunition  with  its failure to  deliver what it promised  in 2017 – the  KiwiBuild debacle, for starters, where instead  of  creating   affordable  homes  Labour’s action has led to absurd rents and  mounting homelessness.

Then there  is  the increasing congestion on the roads, and  the absence of a   solution,  as  Labour proposed,  through light rail.

And don’t forget child poverty.

As  for  the  well-being budget, how  much of the  new  money  in   the health  sector got  to the patients?

So  the  straightforward  strategy for National    might be  to  beat the  drum  on   core  National  values  in company with   a  catchy  slogan or  two  (“ Let’s get NZ  moving again”) .

It  could  selectively  target  specific  segments   in  the  voting  population  like  those  who  feel shut out  of   the housing  market, or those   who believe  Labour,  by  imposing  new  regulations  on  landlords,  have forced  up  rents to  unacceptable levels.   .

Another  easily  absorbed  strategy  is  to  target  one-time Labour  strongholds  where   Labour’s  “splash the cash”  policies,  in  failing to achieve  any  visible social  improvement,  has  created   disillusion.

Many  hard-working  citizens   who pay their taxes   are  angered   by the   perception  of  waste  in the public sector and of  politicians seeking to  buy  votes  through the  so-called  provincial  growth  fund.

Labour  pledged  “transformative change”.  Yet,  as  Professor  Jonathan Boston  wrote last month,  the problems afflicting  the welfare  state  are   manifold:

There  are significant rates  of material hardship  and financial  stress. Many children go to school  hungry. There is  an acute  housing crisis, especially  in  Auckland, with unprecedented  levels of  homelessness.

“Begging is  commonplace.  Ethnic disparities and gender inequalities continue to run deep.  Rates of  mental  ill-health and substance  abuse have escalated. And both income and wealth inequality remain pronounced.

“For the  most  vulnerable the welfare state is not  delivering an adequate  income, accessible  public services or  even a  place  to  sleep”.

Such  an  indictment from  a  left-leaning  academic  must leave   voters  puzzled   why  Labour   ministers  have  danced   around the problems, delivering  so  little  of the transformation  they pledged.

But it  won’t  do  much  to pave the way for a  National  victory  if   Bridges  does  no more than try to drive home to voters   why so many  Labour ministers turned  out to be political blowhards  in  implementing   the party’s election promises.

The challenge for  National is to  frame   realistic  policies  which can  tackle  the problems   Labour  which failed  to   solve.

It  won’t  be  easy  to  present,  in terms    the  average   voter can assimilate,   a  policy   platform   coherent, sensible  and  achievable.

But  why  should   health  services in  Southland  be  so inferior  to those in Wellington?        

Surely,   NZ  is  rich  enough  to  rely  more  heavily   on universally funded  programmes  in  family  assistance,  childcare,  and primary healthcare?

Boston  points to the  contributory principle  (currently applied only  to accident  compensation)   being  extended to other forms of  assistance , such as the funding  of sickness   and  unemployment.

Bridges  needs  a   comprehensive,   but  coherent,  programme.  He  starts  with an  important advantage:  National has a  credible  reputation for  managing the  economy.   Audiences    will respond    when  he  lists  the vast sums of  government money which have  gone down the drain without  the  “transformation”  promised by  Labour.

But he  will  also  have  to  set  out  how  a  National government can  fire up the economy again at  the  same time  as it  repairs the  damage done  by  Labour.

For that,  the party  will have to  devise  a  carefully  structured  policy platform  which   voters find believable ,  building on  National  values,   but  with the kind of innovative  ideas  that  take   NZ  into   a  new age of  prosperity,  where  it   harnesses  the full  potential of  NZ’s cutting-edge   agriculture and  technology, modernises the country’s infrastructure,  and   brings the  health  and welfare systems  back up  to be  among the world leaders.

The  National  caucus  when it  gathers  for  a two-day meeting next  month  should put its best brains to  work  to   come up  with  fresh ideas

In the process   Bridges  will be   showing   the country he  is a politician  with substance   rather than  one  who  in saying  “Let’s  do it”  was  blowing in the wind.

7 thoughts on “Make-or-break year for Bridges – he must prove he is PM material without shouting down Ardern

  1. Perhaps Bridges could invite Xi Xinping to pop over and reciprocate the sycophantic flattery he showered on Xi during his recent interview on Chinese State TV? Should work a treat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes his negative rating is huge; he has no chance of winning. New Zealand will be condemned to another 3 years of neo-Marxist cultural revolution.

      Like

  2. National party needs a leader with Jacinda’s leadership, wisdom and compassion then they might have a chance to win the 2020 election.

    Like

  3. Maureen – You should have enclosed your comment “Jacinda’s leadership, wisdom and compassion ” in quotes to show it is sarcasm, because in the eyes of most dispassionate observers, she has displayed little or none of those qualities. Even her compassion is very selective.
    What people want is competent Ministers with a coherent plan lead by a PM who actually knows what they are talking about. That is what governments are judged on and what the current one lacks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And the media prides itself on balance hah! It’s plain to see how this outlet is so anti Labour.
    I’ll leave with one closing word that National will love the voters to forget.
    Middlemore.

    Like

  5. James – do you mean the story of the poo leak at Middlemore that happened two years after Labour became the Government? https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/115311750/sewage-coming-through-the-ceiling-closed-room-in-middlemore-hospitals-emergency-department Hadn’t they set up a working group to investigate it?
    Or was it this one, where the rotting hospital was built by the previous Labour Government?
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/112636825/rot-decay-and-mould-the-long-road-to-fixing-middlemore-hospital?rm=m

    Liked by 1 person

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