Editorial: Bridges a possible future PM

By Michele McPherson

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There's something about Bridges.

When the news broke that Tauranga's MP had been promoted to a minister inside Cabinet, no one in the newsroom was surprised.

Between Winston Peters, Brendan Horan and Bob Clarkson, Tauranga has a way of attracting national political media attention.

The difference with Simon Bridges is, he attracts it for all the right reasons.

At 36, he has become John Key's golden boy, rising swiftly through the political ranks.

One of my first encounters with a young, sharply dressed Bridges was on a trip to the Kaimais.

I was environment reporter at the time and he was fighting to become MP for Tauranga.

What struck my cynical media mind most was the fact he asked the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust volunteers more questions than I did about pest eradication.

I'm still not sure whether it was genuine interest or good politics he was displaying, but it certainly won over his audience.

What I wanted to know back then was how a young lawyer, only a few years older than myself, planned to topple Bob Clarkson.

On the way home, he showed me. "I am quite good, Michele," he said simply of his reputation as a senior crown prosecutor in Tauranga.

At the time, what I passed off as arrogance, I now consider worthy self-belief.

As time passed, I started to see him at lots of different work assignments. Any event - big or small - Bridges was there, designer polo or shirt and tie, armed with an off-the-cuff speech that had the ladies swooning at him like he was Winston.

I know many will say "That's his job" but these events were often in the weekends and often also attended by his wife, Natalie.

His dedication to Tauranga, albeit with political motive, was admirable. For a while, it seemed an event wasn't an event until Bridges was on the guest list.

One of the best stories he provided me was deciding not to front the community debates in the lead-up to the last election - a move which infuriated the other candidates, possibly more than it did the constituents.

Tensions were running high and he was frustrated by my constant questioning. Did he really have prior engagements or did he not want to face the other candidates?

But he stood by his decision and once again emerged victorious.

We had a phone conversation a few months later and I tried to extract the name of his unborn child from him.

"It's Welsh, kind of unusual and you probably won't have heard it before," was all I got.

He always manages to say just enough.

While other young politicians let their youth or tempers get the better of them and trip up now and again, Bridges makes good decisions and remains squeaky clean.

While it's early days yet, I think he could be in line for Prime Minister one day.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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