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National Party prepares for the Big War in 2020

Annual Conference in Christchurch sets the pace
Craig McCulloch

Christchurch, July 27, 2019

Simon Bridges borrowed from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s messaging at the start of the National Party’s Conference in Christchurch. (RNZ Photo by Craig McCulloch)

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.

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

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

Former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Jim McLay

In his speech, Mr Bridges sought to personalise the Party’s “track record” as a sound economic manager, saying that 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. Our bottom line is making sure you and your family have every opportunity to live the best life you can,” he said.

Government attacked

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. We were not perfect on this, but we were not Phil Twyford either,” he said.

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.

Bridges’ wife jokes

Simon Bridges with Paula Bennett (left) and his wife Natalie at a Media Conference (RNZ Picture by Rebekah Parsons-King)

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

“He is hilarious. He is witty. Sometimes, he is a buffoon. He gets marmalade on his chin and he gets pie crumbs on his shirt just before he is 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.”

Craig McCulloch is Deputy Political Editor at Radio New Zealand. She is in Christchurch, covering the National Party’s two-day Annual Conference. The above Report and Picture have been published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz

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