The National Party's annual conference at SkyCity offered everyone another good look at leader Simon Bridges.

It was an opportune time, coming just before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returns from leave and wresting public attention to a new mother taking top office, a sight unseen in New Zealand before, or anywhere else for almost 30 years.

Much has already been said of Bridges' performance at the conference, and his central policy of lifting teacher numbers to cut classroom sizes. Some have pointed out the policy has been wheeled out before, and they are right - but what matters is how it is wheeled out next time.

If it is successfully implemented, the images of Bridges, his wife and his young children on stage at the SkyCity Conference Centre announcing the policy will look especially good in review. But as of right now, Bridges has six to eight months to show his party and the country he has the goods.


The world economy is in slowdown and threatens to throw serious shade on New Zealand. Given the global situation, a downturn, considered overdue for New Zealand, could be even steeper than previously thought.

China's economy has shown signs of instability - its stock markets are poorly performed. This could be hampered further should a trade war with the United States escalate to tariffs on all its exports. US President Donald Trump's rhetoric on trade war lends little confidence for a rallying of global commodity prices.

Most economists agree the next six to nine months will be the lowest point in the cycle. This will be the testing time for our current Coalition Government - and Bridges. Stimulation of the economy will be at the front of mind for Ardern's Cabinet as the economic low bottoms out. Bridges could do worse than remind New Zealand that National's proposed tax cuts could have been easing the pain. Whether tax cuts were even considered in the coalition courtships is now moot.

Bridges scored no discernible hits on acting PM Winston Peters during Ardern's leave. While Peters dealt adroitly with his tenure at the helm and offered few opportunities, Bridges may well have been wise to withhold anything which may have resembled a cheap-shot. However, it may appear to some that Bridges was unable to take any political advantage of a Coalition Government while it was in the charge of a caretaker.

Should he stand a chance of leading his party into a tilt at the job in 2020, he would want to have shown he's put his best foot forward during the worst of the economic cycle, and the summer of 2018/19 looks very likely to be his opportunity.

Asked about details of the classroom sizes by Kerre McIvor on Newstalk ZB, Bridges said: "We have a couple of years to think these things through." He's right, classroom sizes will have to wait. Not so much the yaw of the global economy.

Make no mistake, this Government faces a trying time. It will also be a time for Bridges to show he can lead his party, and is capable of leading a country.