If Christopher Luxon was back in his old role at Air New Zealand, his board would be asking "how come our CEO has been so careless as to lose a key appointment just three months after he put him into the role?"
After all, it was Simon Bridges who Luxon had touted as having the required skills and "intellectual heft" along with a "good brain and great work ethic" to take on National's shadow finance portfolio (along with infrastructure).
"Simon Bridges taking it to Grant Robertson is going to be a great contest ... he's the guy we need to go up against this Government," Luxon said back in December, 2021.
This was the man who was ideally suited to prosecute the wasteful spending decisions, spiralling debt and rising costs of living occurring under the Labour Government. Goals which now fall to Luxon's newly minted finance spokesperson Nicola Willis.
It's politics, of course.
Back when Luxon was plumping up Bridges' feathers, they had just made an accommodation on the leadership to avoid spilling more open blood in caucus. Luxon leader. Bridges finance. Done and dusted.
Luxon won't face too much questioning over Bridges' departure from the key finance shadow portfolio and from politics.
It's the caucus that calls the shots when it comes to electing their leader — not the National Party board.
But he should allow himself some self-reflection.
This, after all, is a political leader who is taking a corporate approach to politics. It is Luxon who has injected such a culture into his team: effectively setting KPIs for them and subjecting them to performance reviews.
Anyone who has played in the corporate sandpit knows that any KPIs that are not based on measurable metrics can still be sabotaged by various managerial agendas — chief among them, cronyism.
Luxon has to guard against a potential blind spot.
Coming from a corporate career he may be blind to the distortions that are built in when performance reviews result in the "senior leadership team" falling too much in behind the views and stances of their leader.
This is important in the political realm, because if functional goals take priority over the critical need for a politician to be vigorous in their own soundings and form their clear individual judgments — you can get mindless group think.
Politicians sign up to a ticket. But they are not expected to be ciphers.
National was on the button when it identified the "cost of living crisis".
But proposing to roll back all Labour's taxes was not sensible.
It was a political gimmick.
There was no way Labour would do this.
It was also knee-jerk and because much of the proposed benefits would have accrued to those on higher incomes it appealed to greed.
Far better to have targeted the struggling and save the political bribes for the 2023 election campaign.
In reality, the package was simply not sufficiently nuanced to address where the real pain is being felt in an environment where consumer price inflation is running at nearly 6 per cent a year and tipped to go higher when the impact of the Ukraine crisis washes through.
Importantly, it left a vacuum which Robertson moved quickly to fill.
The "cost of living" package that the finance minister unveiled on Monday wasn't perfect.
Economic ideologues are quibbling over the measures. But giving price relief at the petrol bowser and halving public transport fares is of immediate benefit. Topping up Working for Families and bringing in benefit increases is also well-targeted.
Robertson has reserved the ability to extend the package beyond its initial three months if the international economy worsens significantly and soaring inflation adds to the existing cost of living pressures. How much more cunning it would have been for Luxon to announce measures that National must have known Robertson was bound to introduce.
Then claim victory after he did so, instead of admonishing the Government for being reactive.
Yesterday, Luxon and Bishop tried to do that by getting ahead of the Government's upcoming announcements on when and to what extent it will relax vaccine passes, mandates and the traffic light system.
The playbook in times of crisis is relatively limited.
It is a political positive for New Zealand — if not for National — that Jacinda Ardern has got some fight back into her and showed leadership by giving Robertson the floor at their post-Cabinet press conference on Monday.
It is also a quick lesson for Luxon that the Labour Government has the power of incumbency at its disposal. It was on the ropes last week. But is now moving swiftly to create new momentum for economic growth by moving to open the borders and kickstart tourism again.
Ardern and Robertson are showing renewed vigour which is important as no country would want its leadership to be paralysed at such a time.
It's been known for some time that Bridges started weighing his future options after he was rolled as National's leader in June 2020.
But he dusted himself off. He wrote a book which showed he was not a one-dimensional politician.
But when it came to National's leadership last December, Luxon had former Prime Minister Sir John Key in his corner. Bridges had no such political patron.
In spite of the sentiments that Luxon expressed then, I do believe it was insensitive to tell media that he had sent Bridges books to read over his summer break including Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, Values(s) by former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, Between Debt and the Devil by Adair Turner and Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia.
He was not hugged as close as Willis and Chris Bishop.
Bridges' decision to get out of politics and embark on a business career is a good one.
He has made mistakes. He has learnt from them. He knows as much as any National politician that the next election is by no means a foregone conclusion.
He has secured an opportunity. He should not look back.