20 May 2020

Simon Bridges 'the one they have to stick with' - Jami-Lee Ross

From Checkpoint, 6:25 pm on 20 May 2020

"As hard as it is for me to say, I reckon Simon Bridges probably is the one they have to stick with," ex-National MP Jami-Lee Ross told Checkpoint, in discussing the leadership of the National Party.

He said Bridges needs Collins and Mitchell's support to stay in leadership.

"I think the National Party's looking at the past 2002 result where National went from 30 [percent] to 21 in just a matter of months, and they're looking for a 'hail Mary' pass, so that's why Todd Muller who's got nothing to lose is actually giving this a go," Ross said.

"But if you want my prediction, I reckon Bridges will actually hold on. We have our history, not friends at all, but I think Bridges is probably going to do some deals around the traps that enable him to stay on just by the skin of his teeth.

"His support lies in the people who he has managed to give jobs to, keep happy, and support along the way. He's someone who values loyalty hugely and he rewards people, that's how he buys them off.

"The problem he's got is he's just not performing and Paula's not performing. But what he's probably doing, and you can see this if you read the tea leaves. He's done some work with Judith, he's done some work with Mark Mitchell. I reckon you'll probably see the three camps, Mitchell, Collins and Bridges come together and they'll be able to defeat Todd Muller.

"If you're the National Party caucus and you're looking at this thing, you are worried about what the results are going to be come September. But they don't have much time to pull this off together. They don't have much time to get their act together," the former National MP said.

"The difference with Jacinda and the way it worked for Labour was because their caucus could unite behind her. The National caucus is divided. They're not going to be able to bring it together in four months' time, and handing it over to someone who the public just don't know, I don't think is going to work."

Ross said looking at the leadership question purely on the politics of who can run into an election campaign, Simon Bridges has the profile.

"Todd Muller's got nothing to lose, that's why he's doing it. But why would you change from someone that the public deeply dislikes, to someone that they just don't know.

"So as hard as it is for me to say, I reckon Simon Bridges probably is the one they have to stick with. And he'll get there, if he can bring Collins and Mark Mitchell on board."

Ross said Bridges calling a leadership vote on Friday was a smart move. "He ain't a good leader and he's not doing well but he still knows how to pull the rug out from under his opponents. And he did that."