The National caucus, suddenly, seemed transformed. Whereas under Judith Collins it had been split into warring factions, under Christopher Luxon (at first blush) it is presenting a united front. Those factions quickly fell into step, adopting Luxon’s new-page philosophy.
But has the Ardern government much to fear? After all, Labour has a leader who dominates the centre ground of NZ politics, who succeeded in pulling across 400,000 voters to the party just a year ago, and who still draws crowds wherever she goes, (albeit now with some protesters, too).
National’s new leader, by comparison, has had only a year in Parliament and his talents have remained, some would say, hidden largely from the public view.
Yet some clues have emerged as the party undergoes what has been labelled the “re-set”, even if Luxon’s opponents revelled in his early stumbles in the House.
What ordinary New Zealanders want to see is an Opposition presenting not just a united front or one that has turned the page on its previous squabbling but a party that is refreshed and delivering a range of answers to the mounting problem confronting NZ.
In front of the cameras and an array of journalists, Luxon has been articulate, relaxed and genial. In reshaping the National team he has demonstrated the skill which he displayed in previous lives in the business world.
Whether he has succeeded in impressing on the new team just what a mountain it has to climb, unaccustomed as it is to the hard grind of opposition politics, is uncertain.
Take for example, the erosion of support for National in what used to be labelled its heartland: the regions.
Luxon himself seems to think National has ready-made solutions ranging through climate change goals, agricultural methane emissions, immigration, and productivity against what Labour is offering to revive voting enthusiasm for his party in the regions.
The kind of boardroom rhetoric he thinks might do it won’t fly.
Luxon – in his first appearance in Parliament as leader – was upstaged by ACT leader David Seymour in attacking the government, and he certainly needs better preparation before engaging in hand-to-hand combat across the floor of the House if he is to lower the Ardern halo.
Once he has shown he can match the PM in the House, and hopefully secured the bounce in the polls that marks the advent of a new leader, he can start presenting an updated policy agenda, which the party faithful was disconcerted to find was absent when Simon Bridges and Judith Collins were at the helm.
Luxon has the advantage now that the public is running out of patience as the government fumbles with MIQ, the traffic lights system, and checkpoints in Northland.
As Richard Prebble puts it, Labour has terrible ideas. Inflation, he points out, is rising because Labour’s only economic idea was to print money.
He says Labour is failing not just because it lacks management experience, but because it has a socialist agenda.
Prebble contends that what NZ needs is for National to re-discover the party’s founding principles, to provide sound economic management and a government that does not divide us by class, race, gender and age.
As Point of Order sees it, the country can be reasonably certain that Luxon can provide sound economic management and he has already indicated that he has some progressive ideas on how to adapt climate change policy to the country’s advantage.
There have also been signals that he has fresh ideas on productivity and in fostering new opportunities for hi-tech industries. This is the sector which can give living standards the sharpest boost and at the same time propel NZ’s main export industries to become more productive.
Under Labour, NZ has seen a larger share of GDP being devoted to house-building and less to the business investment required to support growth in productivity and incomes. That’s what’s holding back the higher living standards NZers aspire too and why other countries are growing faster.
Luxon only has to tour the queues at foodbanks at Christmas time to make his point.