27 Jul 2019

Simon Bridges: 'NZ can't afford another three years of this government'

2:22 pm on 27 July 2019

National leader Simon Bridges has opened the party's annual conference with a rousing speech, giving a preview of the Opposition's campaign strategy for next year's election.

Simon Bridges at the National Party's annual conference in 2019.

Simon Bridges has borrowed from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's messaging at the start of the National Party's conference in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

MPs and party members have gathered at the Christchurch Town Hall this weekend to take stock, discuss policy and scratch out tactics for 2020.

Jim Mclay

Sir Jim McLay Photo: Supplied

Among those in the audience are two former National leaders: Sir Jim McLay and former prime minister Sir John Key.

In his speech, Mr Bridges sought to personalise the party's "track record" as a sound economic manager, saying New Zealanders were the most important part of the economy.

"You are the engine room, the heart, at the very centre of everything that is the economy," he said.

"Our bottom line is making sure you and your family have every opportunity to live the best life you can."

Mr Bridges took aim at the government's performance on business, housing and transport, saying the country "deserves better".

"Don't get me started on a minister that fails at delivering KiwiBuild and is now in charge of the whole economy," Mr Bridges told the crowd.

"We weren't perfect on this, but we weren't Phil Twyford either."

He promised to put National's economic plan to voters over the next 12 months.

"New Zealand can't afford another three years of this government."

The repeated quotes are reminiscent of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approach in the lead up to his unexpected victory across the Tasman earlier this year.

Senior National MP Judith Collins sais she approved of the party's deliberate bid to focus on New Zealanders rather than politicians in its messaging.

Ms Collins said that Mr Bridges' approach was excellent.

"Politics should not be about us personally in terms of MPs and not about him but actually about all of us so actually I think that's a good thing."

Bridges' wife jokes about husband's Kiwi accent

Mr Bridges was introduced by his wife, Natalie, who referenced her husband's recent description of the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"He's hilarious. He's witty. Sometimes, he's a buffoon. He gets marmalade on his chin and he gets pie crumbs on his shirt just before he's about to talk to media."

She described Mr Bridges as a "wonderful husband, friend and father".

But Mrs Bridges received the loudest applause to one line: "He's got a bloody fantastic Kiwi accent."

New National Party leader Simon Bridges, with deputy Paula Bennett (left) and wife Natalie.

National Party leader Simon Bridges, with deputy Paula Bennett, left, and wife Natalie during a media conference at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

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