}

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Simon’s circus

National Party Leader Simon Bridges, who has overseen a shambolic and badly targeted Opposition, is now under pressure as never before. One of his party’s MPs has gone rogue, accusing Bridges of corruption, among other things. This is one of those times we need ample popcorn to watch all the political infighting.

The story has so many twists and turns that it would take forever to tell coherently, so here are few relevant pieces on it from the NZ newsmedia:

“Jami-Lee Ross accuses Bridges of corruption: the National implosion, explained”The Spinoff
“Recap: National MPs stay 'strong' amidst 'disloyalty and threatening behaviour'” - RNZ
“Bombshell after bombshell: a day in NZ politics like no other”The Spinoff
“Jami-Lee Ross posts images of Simon Bridges with '$100k donor' Zhang Yikun”New Zealand Herald
“Simon Bridges continues to stonewall questions about donations and sexual harassment claims”New Zealand Herald
“Jami-Lee Ross accused of inappropriate behaviour for a married MP: Paula Bennett”New Zealand Herald

Like most people, I have no idea who’s telling the truth and who’s not. There are things that suggest that Ross is telling the truth, but Bridges is so strongly adamant that none of it is true—without denying specific allegations. If there’s anything to the allegations of corruption, it’ll be for the police to discover.

Conservative-leaning pundit Bryce Edwards dismisses it all: “National's hollow political scandal entertaining but insignificant”, while Stuff’s Tracy Watkins says, “After a horrendous day, Nats leader Simon Bridges is still standing – for now”, and far-left blogger Martyn Bradbury reckons it’s all part of a plot to replace Bridges: “BY-ELECTION SCANDAL: That cold, terrifying and soulless nails-on-blackboard sound you hear right now is Judith Collins sharpening her talons”. Whatever. There’s no way that we mere mortals can know who or what is correct.

But, since everyone else is sharing their reckons, here are mine. First, there’s something going on here, even if there’s no criminality. This kind of explosive response isn’t caused by a minor disagreement. Second, if Ross thinks he’ll win a by-election, he’s probably dreaming. It’s a solidly Tory electorate, and it seems, at best, improbable they’d vote for an independent. He won there not because it was him personally but because he wore the National Party rosette. Finally, Bridges' days as National Party Leader have always been numbered, and this will do him no favours. He didn’t win leadership on the first ballot, and since his election he’s been hapless and hopeless as Leader of the Opposition. Other National Party MPs are very ambitious, so it was always a matter of time before he was rolled, and that day is now sooner than it had been.

Beyond that? Not my circus, not my monkeys. I don’t really care who leads the National Party because I wouldn’t vote for their party, anyway. But, on the other hand, I do care about their leader because he may become prime minister, and Bridges should never get that job. The real question to emerge from this, though, is this: Does National have anyone fit to be prime minister? On current performance, absolutely not.

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