Get them over the bridge, Simon
possible future push for power.
Simon Bridges appears to have the tools to construct the first part of this tricky triumvirate: he has long been seen and groomed as leadership material, positioned himself as a frontrunner throughout the two-week campaign and yesterday won on the second ballot, suggesting the leadership vote was reasonably clear and decisive and the party rolled in nicely behind him. Job done.
The second part might be a little tougher in its construction. Bridges is a proud ‘‘compassionate conservative’’ whose social policy views mirror those of Bill English, the leader he succeeds and the man he acknowledged so warmly yesterday.
The new leader voted against same-sex marriage and opposes euthanasia. He goes to church and his father was a Baptist minister. That puts him at odds with not only the liberal faction led by Amy Adams but, potentially, the sweep and momentum of popular opinion in this country and around the world. And despite his relative youth at 41, and talk of generational change within the party he now leads, such views are likely to ensure little of the stardust that lit up Jacindamania will rest on Bridges.
National appears to have simply found a fresh, youthful sticker to slap on the status quo. He has acknowledged the need to modernise but yesterday cautioned that this wouldn’t necessarily mean any radical change.
What does that mean for the ‘‘broad church’’ of talent he praised so highly in his first press conference as leader? Commentators will be keeping a close eye on the futures of Adams and fellow leadership contenders Steven Joyce, Judith Collins and Mark Mitchell.
One vital conduit, however, still appears to be a bridge too far. There was little in Bridges’ speech to suggest National is ready to tackle its greatest challenge: making itself attractive to other potential political partners; leaving itself with more options in future elections than the man from Epsom.
It was notable yesterday that Bridges admonished the ‘‘accidental, experimental’’ Labour-led coalition government. MMP was barely mentioned.
To borrow a good Kiwi colloquialism, the party and its leadership need to build a bridge and get over it, and Bridges and reelected deputy Paula Bennett will need to play key roles in laying down that path. Lest they be left on that mythical span to nowhere.