National’s Little-Boy-Lost


IT MAKES YOU WONDER what it takes to be enrolled at Oxford University and appointed a Crown Prosecutor at 25. Simon Bridges’ CV includes both of these accomplishments, and yet, after ten years in Parliament, five years in Cabinet, and eight months as Leader of the Opposition, what impresses is just how unimpressive he is. Even more puzzling, after the lacklustre quality of Bridges’ performance, is what his caucus colleagues saw in him. Because, clearly, the rest of the country has yet to spot it.

The most worrying aspect of Bridges’ political persona is a complete absence of anything resembling originality. He does precisely what you would expect a young ambitious politician to do – nothing more, nothing less.

Never was this more apparent than in the early months of his Cabinet career when he was assigned – and eagerly carried out – the task of legislating away the right of environmental protesters to place themselves in the path of oil exploration vessels. Political journalists praised Bridges for proving to his boss, John Key, and the other heavy-hitters of the National Government, that he was a “good soldier”: someone who could be relied upon to obey orders and get the job done with a minimum of fuss and bother.

Those same political journalists would probably say that Bridges swift rise to the top of the National Party bears eloquent testimony to the importance of not rocking the boat. But, getting to the top of your party is not quite the same as being elected Prime Minister of your country. Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little all got to the top of their party. None of them, however, got the top job.

TDB Recommends

Though few New Zealanders are likely to devote much energy to thoroughly deconstructing Bridges’ political conduct, many have already decided that something important is missing. National’s pollsters have yet to detect a decisive upward swing in the public’s estimation of the Opposition Leader. He remains worryingly underwhelming. People comment on Bridges’ Brylcreemed hair and his appalling diction, but on very little else. There is a knee-jerk quality to his day-to-day political utterances which renders them predictable and forgettable in equal measure.

Bridges clearly has not spent a great deal of time studying the careers of successful National Party Leaders of the Opposition. Had he done so he would have realised the importance of establishing early a significant “point of difference” between himself and his colleagues. Rob Muldoon, for example, made a name for himself by opposing his own Prime Minister’s decision to proceed with the Second Labour Government’s (1957-1960) plans to build a cotton mill in Nelson. Though a callow back-bencher, Muldoon argued – successfully – that the cotton mill project took Labour’s “import substitution” policies too far. That the mill contract had already been signed proved to be no obstacle. The Holyoake Government, under pressure from Muldoon’s “Young Turks”, simply tore it up.

Imagine if Bridges, when asked to smooth the way for the oil prospectors, had refused to curb his fellow citizen’s political rights and resigned his portfolio. Immediately, he would have acquired the status of a principled maverick. A conservative politician who, nevertheless, could be relied upon to pay more than lip-service to New Zealand’s democratic traditions. Someone who was willing to stand up and be counted on civil liberties.

Just as Muldoon had very early on established his credentials as someone who could speak with authority about economic matters, Bridges could have put himself at the forefront of the debate about security versus freedom; surveillance versus privacy. Among the parliamentarians of his generation he would have stood out as a politician of real substance. A potential future leader: not only of his party, but also of the country.

Fortunately for Labour, this was not the Simon Bridges who made it to the top of National’s greasy pole. Even on issues which, for the leader of a liberal-conservative party like National, should require a minimum of serious cogitation, Bridges has slipped and slided all over the place. He came out very cautiously in favour of free speech for Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, but refused to boycott Massey University when it refused to allow the former leader of his own party, Don Brash, to address the Massey Politics Club. He compounded this failure by backing his colleague, Michael Woodhouse’s, call to deny the US whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, entry to New Zealand.

About a politician who cannot seem to make the simplest of moral judgements there will always be an air of inauthenticity and impersonation. Bridges has been described (unkindly, but not entirely inaccurately) as a young boy dressed-up in his father’s suit. The jacket’s cuffs extend well beyond his fingertips and the legs of the trousers puddle around his Dad’s too-big shoes. It’s an image that invites ridicule – not respect.

It is Bridges’ lack of authenticity: the impression he gives of playing politics by-the-numbers and without conviction; that makes the electorate so unwilling to take him seriously. He can frown, scowl, pout and shout his defiance of the Coalition Government, and all its leaders do is laugh. Much as a gathering of youngsters would laugh if one of their number attempted to impersonate the responsible adult in the room.

In the 2018 “Mood of the Boardroom” survey, published in today’s (3/10/18) NZ Herald, one of the business leaders interviewed remarked of Bridges’ performance as leader: “We are all waiting for a real punch to land. Bridges’ best day since Labour got in was the in-house haggle on the floor of Parliament when they were trying to sort votes for the Speaker on day one. He hasn’t got close to that high-water mark since.”

But even that incident (which indisputably impressed his caucus colleagues) reflects poorly on Bridges’ ability to distinguish strategy from tactics. Yes, he succeeded in bluffing Labour’s less-than-stellar Leader of the House, but in doing so he marked himself and his party as ruthless, opportunistic and untrustworthy.

It is an indication of just how low the moral bar of our public life has been set that Bridges’ behaviour was widely interpreted by political journalists as evidence of his fitness to lead. Not so. The failure of Simon Bridges, National’s Little-Boy-Lost, to fire the imagination of the New Zealand electorate merely demonstrates how comprehensively the moral sensibilities of ordinary voters exceed those of the men and women who claim to represent them.



    • Yep!
      But let’s not forget that while Brudgizz has people commenting on “Brylcreemed hair and his appalling diction, Key had sleeze and appalling diction.
      Apparently Key also had something they call ‘krizma’.
      Soimun: – “Ultimately rhubarb rhubarb” that must be the secret going forward.
      Probably a career in real estate or used car sales would be a better option

  1. You got it Chris he is a soldier there is difference between a soldier and a leader one takes orders the other gives them

    • Spot on Chriss.

      Simon Bridges was shallow and ineffective always see my response here also sent as a press release last week while he was as “Minister of transport and his mishandling of our public rail system.

      Press release; 29th September.

      “New evidenced based ‘zero emissions train’ developed in Germany that scientists claim are the best transport option.

      NZ also may be easily able to develop our own ‘manufacturing Hydrogen plant’ here to supply the transport of rail freight and passenger services as South Australia is doing currently.
      S.A. to host Australia’s first green hydrogen power plant
      Giles Parkinson12 February 2018
      QUOTE ;The South Australia government has announced funding for what will be Australia’s first renewable-hydrogen electrolyser plant – a 15MW facility to be built near the end of the grid at Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula.
      The “green hydrogen” plant – to be built by Hydrogen Utility (H2U), working with Germany’s thyssenkrupp – will include a 10MW hydrogen-fired gas turbine, fuelled by local wind and solar power, and a 5MW hydrogen fuel cell.

      We at CEAC want to see NZ Government plan to also build a ‘first renewable-hydrogen electrolyser plant’ as Australia is now developing.

      We therefore have no reasons to believe that Simon Bridges will reverse his “anti-rail – pro-road freight policies” in an attempt to help in reducing carbon emissions by at least 488,000 tonnes a year.

      Question to Mr Simon Bridges;

      Will you now use rail with a zero emissions train system (hydrogen-powered-trains) for even lower carbon emissions for more by increased use of rail freight to lower all those carbon emissions sharply now?

      So unless we see solid evidence of his move back to restoring rail freight written in policies by him laid out before the voters of NZ we do not see rail in National Party policy going forward.

      • below with conventional rail use before we switch to hydrogen-powered-trains
      • also seen below is the press release from Germany switching to hydrogen-powered-trains.

      Facts at a glance:

      • Rail contributes up to $1.5 billion in often unseen benefits to New Zealand each year.
      • The value of rail to New Zealand far outweighs its cost to the taxpayer.
      • Using rail reduces the number of deaths and injuries on our roads by a net 271 a year.
      • Rail saves taxpayers money on congestion, road maintenance costs, injuries and fatalities and reduced carbon emissions.
      Reducing congestion saves $1.3 billion, the equivalent of 100,000 fewer daily car trips and taking 30,000 trucks off the road for an hour a day.
      • Reducing carbon emissions by 488,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 87,000 cars off the road – saves $8.5 million.
      • Improving safety outcomes saves $60 million.
      • Reducing road maintenance saves $63 million.
      • Rail is also an important and sustainable economic contributor to the regions and links New Zealand to export markets overseas.

      • Your cynicism re Simon Bridges wilful neglect of Kiwirail while he was Minister of Transport is entirely appropriate. National actively limited Kiwirail’s potential to reduce NZ’s transport related carbon emissions by failing to give Kiwirail the financial backing to buy new electric locomotives for the North Island Main Trunk. By contrast, they enabled the road transport industry to increase the length and axle weight of trucks despite a need to take active measures in support of our Paris climate change accord obligations.

  2. Spot on, especially the lack of authenticity. Bridges’ voice raising, and shouting in Parliament looks like copy-catting John Key’s most obnoxious public performances.

    Each morning I wake up -before I put on my make-up- I say a little prayer
    for National keeping Bridges. He epitomises the Nat ethos very well. They deserve him. The country doesn’t.

  3. Enrolled at Oxford University, appointed a Crown Prosecutor at 25, ten years in Parliament, five years in Cabinet, and eight months as Leader of the Opposition.

    That all that history massed, arrived and delivered that Jamie-Lee Ross episode last week says it all.

    To continue the analogy, it was the Olympic size pool, a deep one, with sharks in it yet Simon was only capable of handling, only prepared for a shallow layer and a solo splash in a paddle pool.

  4. Bridges is everything Chris Trotter said he is, uninspiring, v@cuous, and just downright boring.

    Which is why the left should go easy on him. He makes a re-elected labour-led govt in 2020 a dead cert. Best ally ever.

  5. I can only agree with the other comments so far Chris. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

    When all that National can offer voters is a cocktail of smear, lies and spite, and an economic vision based on failed Rogernomics, then I don’t fancy their chances of enjoying a Brighter Future.

    Mind you, the voters of Middle Earth are notoriously easy to dupe………

  6. I’ve never been able to take Bridges seriously; he’s always come across as a petulant adolescent. Nothing has changed in that regard.

  7. … [ The failure of Simon Bridges, National’s Little-Boy-Lost, to fire the imagination of the New Zealand electorate merely demonstrates how comprehensively the moral sensibilities of ordinary voters exceed those of the men and women who claim to represent them ] …


    Yeah, – and we’ve had to endure 3 bloody decades of the twerps.

    This country is small and therefore so easily manipulated by those who have the money , the position and the power. And just because someone wears a suit DOESN’T MEAN they are automatically ‘born to rule’ either.

    Far from it.

    The amount of suit wearing pontificators we have had in both politics and the corporate world and making some of the most dumbass , immoral and cynical decisions that destroyed working ordinary peoples lives in this country is staggering. ( Think Ruth Richardsons 1991 Employment Contracts Act , and her Business Roundtable advisers )

    All to further their , – and their foreign mates (who don’t even live here ) agendas at OUR expense.

    How dare they.

    And we let these geeky , pallid , pasty faced , jumped up nerds shove us around like they were not just common elected officials to execute our will for the betterment of our country , – but instead letting them act like they are some sort of jumped up medieval high ranking nobility.

    Bridges exemplifies that attitude with his arrogant squeaky ranting , his bloody-mindedness and his dogmatic belligerence.

    Now WHO ,… in their right minds,… seriously wants anybody like that ANYWHERE NEAR positions of national leadership in the modern world???

    I would like to see you , Mr Trotter , …do an article explaining the difference between those who believe the state answers to the people versus the power of the state over its populace and how that has led to the cloistered conditions and abuses of power we see today. We as a people need to be re-empowered and realize the immense power , we , the people actually do have.

  8. bridges is there to do the job he’s doing. Which is to do nothing. Steady as she goes. The next election? Labour will be out on their useless arses and God help us when National come home from the pub.

    This guy’s a good writer in my opinion.
    George Manbiot of The Guardian.
    And this is an interesting article by him. And check out the link titled
    ‘Clowns in politics are dangerous’.

  9. Simon is just another Nat Pack psychopath, leave him alone and let him carry on, he will not get the party far, and he will likely get rolled by late 2020 the latest.

Comments are closed.