The results are in… and the new leader of the National Party is Simon Bridges.
Paula Bennett will remain as deputy leader of the National Party, just as she has been for the last two years. Her expanding portfolio includes police, climate change, women, state services, and tourism.
It would’ve been a tough fight matched with an incredibly convincing speech to caucus for Bridges to become leader, running against Amy Adams, Judith Collins, Mark Mitchell, and Steven Joyce.
Simon Bridges is 41, which is a relatively young age for a Member of Parliament, let alone a party leader. This could be a good step forward for National in their 2020 election bid, as voters appreciated Labour leader Jacinda Ardern’s youthfulness and optimism. With Bridges as leader, the National Party could swing voters who were struck by “Jacindamania” to vote the other way in the next election. It is certainly a key goal for National Party politicians, but it could mean climbing a few mountains and crossing some bridges (get it?).
Bridges is the first Māori leader of the National Party. Although he focuses on transport and economic development, he said to media that he wants Māori to consider voting National because of this monumental leadership change. “I hope Māori who have traditionally been with New Zealand First at times, with Labour, will give us a second look, will think about us and what we mean and the opportunities that we present for Māori.”
The new leader is the current MP for Tauranga and has been since 2008, providing a regional perspective in Parliament. Regional development is expected to be a major focus.
In a statement on Twitter, Simon Bridges shared his ambitions.
“My focus will be on presenting an ambitious and strong alternative Government heading into 2020.”
Will the leadership change mean a win for the next election, or will they have to cross more bridges to keep “Jacindamania” low?