Luxon could be the National Party favourite for leadership

Jo Moir

Jo Moir

Wellington, November 26, 2021

                                                              Christopher Luxon could be the front-runner for National Leadership (Newsroom Photo by Lynn Grieveson)


On Tuesday, November 30, 2021,  the National Party will once again vote on a new Leader, its fifth since Sir John Keys shock resignation in 2016.

The once steady ship will have plenty of holes for the new Leader to plug.

The National Party is in such a state of despair almost anybody could be a candidate for Tuesday’s Leadership vote, but only a handful are likely to seriously consider the job, and even fewer are credible options.

The Simon Bridges Saga

Some will be weighing up how sealed the fate of the next Leader already is after a chaotic and explosive 24 hours at Parliament, starting with an out-of-the-blue press release from Judith Collins on Wednesday (November 24, 2021) night announcing Simon Bridges’ demotion and stripping of his portfolios.

The former Leader says he made inappropriate remarks in the presence of his colleague Jacqui Dean at a function at Premier House in 2016.

Then-Deputy Prime Minister Bill English spoke to him after Dean later complained and Bridges apologised.

The next he knew of the complaint still being an issue was on Wednesday night when Collins issued a press release – Bridges had been told that there were concerns earlier in the day but says he was not aware of the specific details.

He apologised to Dean again on Thursday and described Collins’ actions as ”truly desperate.’

The caucus backed him on Thursday when MPs met and voted no confidence in the Leader, ending her sixteen months at the helm.

While Bridges out manoeuvred Collins on one front, he clearly did not have the numbers then and there to challenge the Leadership.

As a result, the caucus has given itself some breathing space and appointed Deputy Leader Shane Reti into an interim Leader role and will regroup on Tuesday to appoint a new boss.

That gives MPs the next four days to work out if they’re running or backing someone else, and if so, who.

 

Simon Bridges, despite the controversy, could be in the race too (Newsroom Photo by Lynn Grieveson)

The contenders for the top job

Bridges is undecided on whether he will contest the Leadership.

On Thursday, he told media he would think about it over the next few days.

“I do think I have a sense of what New Zealand needs at this time but let us think that through. There wasn’t a vacancy. I was genuine in my clear statements about not having an intention to stand with where things were at. That has changed. I am going to consider it,’’ he said.

The fact that he has done the job and knows how difficult it is counts for something, as Bridges will be realistic about the challenges going into it if he was to run again.

But there are questions about how much this whole saga has damaged his credibility and how his open baiting of Collins in recent months as she struggled in the polls was regarded by voters.

While the Caucus has picked his side over Collins, that does not mean that they will pick him as Leader, especially when his own favourability has been tellingly negative in recent polls.

Christopher Luxon, the obvious choice

The more obvious successor is former Air New Zealand chief executive Chris Luxon.

He has the benefit of being new and shiny but also having business credibility and experience running and managing a large team.

While that does not always translate to politics, it is a better starting point than most.

He is showing up in polls which means he has at least some name recognition and has the support of Sir John Key – a ringing endorsement in the National Party world.

Newsroom understands that Luxon has been keen to hold off any Leadership role until he had been in Parliament longer but that option has been taken off the table after Collins’ late-night implosion.

 

Mark Mitchell, National Party Spokesman for Counter-Terrorism (File Photo)

Mitchell marks his case

Senior MP Mark Mitchell will inevitably put his hand up for the job, but as has happened in the past he will read the room and quickly realise he has no support.

The other option is to swing to the liberal wing of the party and throw Chris Bishop, Nicola Willis or Erica Stanford into the job.

They have all been strong performers in the caucus since the election and if the decision was based purely on work ethic, any one of them could win by a country mile.

But the liberal wing holds a minority in the caucus of 33 MPs and it is unlikely any of them would get the numbers needed to be Leader.

Their colleagues also have long memories and their involvement in the Todd Muller coup would also count against their Leadership ambitions.

 

Nicola Willis from Wellington could be a good Deputy (Newsroom Photo by Lynn Grieveson)

Willis and Stanford

It is far more likely that Nicola Willis or Erica Stanford would be considered as deputy to Luxon to balance out his conservative leanings and tick the gender split usually needed in a Leadership duo. Willis could be in a strong position on that basis as she is from Wellington, which would counter Luxon’s Auckland base – Stanford is also from Auckland.

Willis has also been in and around Parliament for a long time and knows how the place works – she formerly worked for Key and helped coach him for his Leader debates.

She would bring some of the political experience that Luxon is lacking.

 

Judith Collins: a fatal mistake (Photo by Mark Mitchell/Pool)

As for Shane Reti, it is highly unlikely that the quiet achiever would run and he would struggle to get any real support.

The party needs to land on a stable option because any more changes ahead of the election simply won’t be tenable.

While Luxon is politically inexperienced he would have the support and respect of those MPs in the caucus that could help with that.

It would seem almost certain that Bridges would be offered Finance (say goodbye to the nonsense Shadow Treasurer role created by Collins) – as a Former Minister and friendly ally to Luxon that they would present a strong front.

With Willis as Deputy, the other front bench spots could easily be filled by Chris Bishop, Stanford, Reti and Todd McClay.

The Caucus has time to consider the various machinations over coming days, and the phones will be busy as options are worked through over and over again.

Collins is yet to decide whether she will front on Tuesday. It is a recess week, so there is no obligation for her to turn up in Parliament.

If Bridges does decide to run, hers is one vote he can be certain of getting.

Jo Moir is Political Editor of Newsroom based in Wellington. The above article and pictures have been published under a Special Agreement.

Share this story

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement