The new Leader should pick up the National Party pieces

Beginning of a new era for National: Christopher Luxon with his Deputy Nicola Willis (Getty Images)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, November 30, 2021

After several months of speculation and rumours, the National Party has finally chosen its new Leader, who will hopefully lead it to the next general election in 2023.

In Choosing Christopher Luxon, the National Caucus, the Board of Directors and the members and supports of the Party will look for real leadership in the man who has had a resplendent career as the President and Chief Executive of Unilever Canada and Air New Zealand- a role which performed creditably, managing through challenges and opportunity.

Managing a political party is vastly different, compared to a corporate entity, although there are some similarities. Firstly, both call for astuteness, alacrity, ability to address and solve problems to the satisfaction of most, if not all stakeholders. A great degree of integrity, honesty, transparency and people-to-people skills are paramount.

The new Leader will need the full support of his Caucus Members- some of them here (from left) Christopher Luxon, Judith Collins, Mark Mitchell, Michael Woodhouse, Melissa Lee and Chris Penk at the luncheon for National MPs at Indian Newslink Offices on April 30, 2021 (INL Photo by Narendra Bedekar)

A scoring Leader

Mr Luxon will easily score on all these counts.

And hopefully, his Deputy Nicola Willis (List MP from Wellington), will be a great asset.

But leading a political party that is in shambles, in disarray with a majority of its members of Parliament disillusioned, is no easy task. The morale is at its lowest point, and the past leadership clearly lacked the ability and the skill to manage. We have said enough about Judith Collins, who surprised us by her indiscretion- of demoting fellow MP Simon Bridges over a complaint from another fellow MP (Jacqui Dean) –over an incident that occurred six years ago and a complaint that was addressed. When least expected, she decided to bat on her own and fall on the wicket. Thus ended an ambitious career as a possible future Prime Minister- that prospect now appears rather remote.

Mr Bridges did well in bowing out of the race so that the decision of Mr Luxon could be unanimous. That in itself is a good beginning.

Mr Luxon has to pick up the pieces and his political favourite and family friend John Key did almost around the same time in 2006, about two years before the general election. He steered the Party exceedingly well and led the country and established a record of solid economic growth, sound finances and undertook measures to help smaller businesses. He also proved that he is a man of the masses with relief (although not substantially) for low and middle-income New Zealanders. Under him, the National Party wrote and executed welfare policies for children in need and its assistance for first-time homebuyers are decidedly centrist.

Mr Luxon however has two major political challenges, which Mr Key did not suffer.

Christopher Luxon’s election as the Leader of the National Party has had mixed reactions from ethnic communities. He is seen here with fellow MP Melissa Lee at Indian Newslink Offices on April 30, 2021 (INL Photo by Narendra Bedekar)

No mistake about Labour

Firstly, the Labour Party and its Leader (Prime Minister) Jacinda Ardern are still very popular, despite taking hits in successive opinion polls in recent months. However, with the economy performing well and with prospects of international borders opening early next year, Ms Ardern may be able to swing back fortunes.

Secondly, the steady rise of ACT Party and its ambitious Leader David Seymour could be far more formidable for Mr Luxon and National. For, the general belief is that ACT grows at the cost of National and the rise of one is directly proportionate to the decline of the other.

New Zealand’s economic upswing began in the mid-1980s under a remarkably reforming Labour government that was, in the words of Mr Key, “amazingly right-wing.”

Subsidies that, among other things, fattened farmers were wiped out, tariffs dropped and investment opened up.

Whether or not the National Party regains power in 2023, New Zealanders will look up to Mr Luxon to provide the much-need leadership and hope that he is successful. Under his stewardship, the country can expect to continue its onward march too.

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