The show-stealers in National Party leader Simon Bridges' reshuffle are obvious and Bridges took particular joy in setting the scene for a showdown between new Housing spokeswoman Judith Collins and Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

He all but sang the Nightmare on Elm Street song: "One, two, Judith's coming for you."

But Bridges pointed out there is a lot of background work that must happen as well to set the party up for 2020.

In that respect, Bridges continued with the structure that worked well for National, grouping his MPs into teams such as finance, children and social welfare, law and order, health and economic development to work on policies together.


It is a critical reshuffle for Bridges and by National Party standards it is indeed radical.

Half of its previous front bench has been wiped out – some by attrition (Bill English and Steven Joyce) and the rest by Bridges, who pushed down those considered to the dominant "faces" of the former National Government.

English was change averse when it came to reshuffles. He went about them as if he was playing with the peas on a plate, gently moving a couple round but never smashing them into the mashed potato.

Sir John Key was also careful not to rock the boat too much. He would openly engineer the graceful exit of one or two ministers to make room for a few new people. The aim was to keep his ministers sharp and his backbench MPs hopeful. By and large his front bench barely changed.

So Bridges was not exaggerating when he said his reshuffle came with some risks – although he was referring to the risks of some relative unknowns taking high-profile roles rather than the risk of a revolt.

National's MPs are well trained not to kick up a fuss when they feel hard done by. That is less of a sure thing in Opposition so Bridges has taken care not to humiliate any of those who were demoted and he rewarded his rivals for the leadership.

Many of those who were shunted down were compensated – Gerry Brownlee was demoted but kept in a solid position and given his coveted role of Shadow Leader of the House, as well as the spy agencies and America's Cup.

The departure of Key, English and Steven Joyce has raised Brownlee's value to Bridges – he is the only one remaining of the "kitchen Cabinet" from Key's era and only a fool would want to get rid of all that institutional knowledge.

At first blush, some of the matchups seem odd.

The quiet Paul Goldsmith is almost a twin for Economic Development Minister David Parker but may not seem the ideal man to take on the rambunctious Shane Jones on Regional Development.

New Economic Development spokesman Paul Goldsmith will be charged with sniffing out hits for his leader. Photo / Duncan Brown
New Economic Development spokesman Paul Goldsmith will be charged with sniffing out hits for his leader. Photo / Duncan Brown

Goldsmith is one of the few who took to Opposition with relish, impressing Bridges with a forensic approach to questioning on tertiary education and employment, including hits on Willie Jackson in particular.

Goldsmith's other value is he is used to sacrificing for the cause. He has gone out of his way to lose in Epsom since 2011 so Act can hold the seat.

Jones' portfolio has been identified by Bridges as one of his primary attack targets – and it will be Bridges himself who runs the big stories on it.

Goldsmith's job is to winkle those out – and then hand them over without a murmur.