National's new leader Chris Luxon had a few good lines up his sleeve for his first speech in Parliament's free-for-all general debate today – but it was preceded by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson's traditional roasting of new National leaders.
Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have played the leadership change fairly straight so far, but Ardern stayed on to watch her deputy deliver the real verdict.
Robertson kicked off by referring to the most recent chapter in the "National Party's Grab A Seat sale" before referring to Luxon's decision to use a black Mercedes to drive the 100m journey from his apartment to Parliament on the day he was elected leader.
Robertson even mapped the drive. "It required Mr Luxon to travel straight for 46 seconds, before turning right, turning right again, turning left, turning right again. This will be the pattern of his leadership."
Robertson then launched into Luxon's often-used phrase that the National Party had now "turned the page" - and to MP Todd Muller's reference to taking off "the backpack of grievance".
Robertson suggested one of Muller's colleagues might like that backpack- including those demoted in Luxon's reshuffle: Todd McClay, David Bennett or Judith Collins.
"Unfortunately, [Collins] is already heavily laden down with her handbag of hostility."
"But there is plenty of baggage to go around. There is Simon Bridges' satchel of stolen dreams, Michael Woodhouse's duffel bag of despair, Paul Goldsmith's kete of misgivings. All of it is kept inside the caucus threadbare sack of unity."
He predicted the next Grab a Seat sale would follow in quick order.
Luxon did not get his chance for a right of reply until two more speakers – David Seymour and Poto Williams – had spoken.
"What a difference a week makes," Luxon began. "Finally Grant Robertson has done some work. He's put it into his speech, sadly, and not into the economy."
Given National's own recent history, Luxon then took the very confident – and risky – step of talking about Labour's own leadership.
He noted Labour had changed its rules to allow an MP with the support of more than two thirds of caucus to be elected leader without taking it to a vote in the wider membership - dubbed the Robertson clause by some.
Robertson is considered the most likely to replace Ardern if she steps down while PM, and Luxon noted he had "stitched up" the leadership.
"Chris Hipkins doesn't get a go, lovely Michael Wood doesn't get a go. I think it would be much more fun if Willie Jackson had a shot at it. Mr Mallard maybe.
Alas, by this time most the Government MPs had left – including Robertson.
For the rest of his speech, Luxon called the Labour Government "tired" and "arrogant".
He said there was hope on the horizon – in the form of himself. "Hope is coming to a town near you. The National Party is back. We know how to put aspiration, confidence and mojo back into this country. We are not going to play a small, fearful, inward-looking game."
He also pitched to the small businesses and rural communities, saying neither were supported by Labour. "They really don't care or value our farmers. They are not their people."
"They load them up with costs and regulation. Farmers are sitting there on the other side of the tennis court being served 10 balls at a time, and they don't know which one to hit."
Earlier in the day, Luxon had tackled Ardern in Question Time for the second time – this time without losing his place. He roved over the decision to keep Auckland's boundaries closed after the traffic light system began, despite public health advice that it could lift, and the cost of living.
He did not get a killer blow, but he did manage to get Ardern to bite back – she described National's version of the Covid-19 response as a "let it rip" strategy.