An absence of news in politics is often significant.

A relative silence emitting from the hordes of media jockeys that cover Parliament means a deficiency of issues and a contented population.

This is a state of affairs that opposition parties dread for obvious reasons, and that is just what happened last weekend when the big political news was a Down syndrome man who works at my local supermarket.

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He's a lovely bloke who's always worth a smile and a friendly wave and the story was about the money in his KiwiSaver account that he would be unlikely to ever access because his condition is associated with a shortened life span.

His mum wanted to see an exception made to the KiwiSaver rules so that he could use the money to visit his bother in Italy. Kris Faafoi, the responsible minister, promised the matter would come up in the scheduled review of KiwiSaver next year and the topic died.

It occurred to me that the prominence of this story underlined a general acceptance of, and comfort with the Jacinda Ardern Government, with none of the opposition's stories getting any traction.

The political ether, just like nature, abhors a vacuum and it wasn't long before we had some political meat for the press gallery to get its teeth into by way of a leak of the leader of the opposition's expenses.

Apparently Simon Bridges managed to spend a touch under $114,000 on Crown limousines and accommodation between April and June and this information was leaked to Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien, who made hay of this gift in a dull week and dubbed the affair "limogate".

As this disclosure happened only two days before all of the MPs' spending was to become public, and given the magnitude of the spending, the leak was obviously intended to surprise and embarrass Bridges.

Whoever concocted this plot hit the bull's eye. When Jacinda Ardern was faced with questions about her own limousine spending in opposition she expressed concern and pledged parsimony.

Humility was not for Simon Bridges. He clearly believed that it was his god-given right to cruise around at taxpayer expense and reacted with arrogance and aggression, having instructed his MPs to all parrot the same line about him just doing his job.


He made no friends. Born to rule toryism doesn't sit well with middle New Zealand.

One test of a leader is how he or she reacts to getting confronted with this kind of unexpected revelation. Mr Bridges failed this test and compounded the error by declaring that no National MP was responsible for the leak without any evidence whatsoever.

His instincts were all wrong.

It would have been a much better strategy to have quietly promised to keep an eye on his spending in the future and to avoid putting the focus onto who actually leaked.

He now has to endorse and to contend with a full-blown investigation gladly ordered by the Speaker Trevor Mallard which will give the story much greater longevity than it deserves.

When all of the numbers were revealed a couple of days later MPs expenditure was up across the board and Bridges own spending didn't seem so excessive, but the damage had been done.

This will have done Simon Bridges no favours with his own MPs who now have to sign releases so that their email traffic can be scrutinised by the inquiry.

This is because the leak happened, we are told, in an "electronic form", and the leaker, according to National MP Gerry Brownlee, should be identifiable.

At the time of the leak the information was only available to a few Parliamentary Services officials, 56 National MPs, and the Speaker.

I doubt that the leaker will be found.

If I wanted to leak something that came to me by email without leaving any traceable footprints I'd take a screen shot of the material I wanted to leak with my cellphone, send it to any computer off site and print it.

I found myself on a radio programme debating this with a frenzied National Party defender whose violent attack on journalist Tova O'Brien made it only too clear that he suspected the leak came from within the National Party.

Shooting the messenger is always a sign of desperation.

By the end of the week the National Party spin doctors were trying anything to get Bridges out of the media.

This led to a silly irrelevant denunciation of the New Zealand First Party's constitution (as if anyone could possibly care) by National MP Nick Smith.

I would have thought that after being denied a fourth term in government by NZ First's decision to support the Labour Party; National would have learned the lesson and be trying to repair its relationship with Winston.

■Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.