It's all about timing. Since he was first elected an MP last year, Christopher Luxon has been tipped as a National Party leader, but at some time far into the future, maybe.
The argument ran that he was a first-term MP and didn't have the gritty experience in the arcane world of Parliament and the torrid dog-fighting pit of politics. He didn't have the support for a leadership bid in the faction-ridden remnants of National's caucus. The great unwashed of voters didn't know who he was. He was too rich. Too male. Too Christian. Too bald.
Actually, forget that last mark against him; the Yul Brynner look is apparently "in" and being bullet-headed is no handicap in politics.
Judith Collins did him the favour of alienating so many folk in her caucus that they passed a vote of no confidence in her. So, he does not face accusations of stabbing anyone in the back, except perhaps rival challenger Simon Bridges in the vote that followed.
He promptly rewarded Bridges by making him finance spokesperson up against Grant Robertson, guaranteeing fireworks as both are feisty political scrappers.
Luxon put together a strong line-up of spokespeople who should generate some momentum as a team, compared with the disjointed squabbling rabble the caucus had become over the past few dismal years.
In short, Luxon's timing was perfect both for him and the National Party. A leader is the party's brand and has an enormous effect on its electoral fortunes. Recall how a quick leadership change to Jacinda Ardern revitalised Labour shortly before the 2017 election and led it on a path to power that Andrew Little could never have found.
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The ascension of Luxon sends the message "I am new, we have changed, forget the past, look to the future". The trick is to ensure that message is maintained.
Luxon's challenge over the next two years is to develop his brand as competent, able, reasonable, but hard-headed when required, someone who has the skills to lead the country not only out of the Covid crisis but out of the huge economic hole we have dug for ourselves as a result of the pandemic.
His biggest challenge will be to find a sizeable chunk of votes to push National into a position where it can take power in 2023. Act under David Seymour has chomped a hefty chunk out of National's support on the hard right, putting his party on 17.5 per cent in a recent opinion poll. As Act is a sure coalition partner for National, Luxon will be turning his sights on the fertile political centre ground to make up the electoral difference.
In doing this, he has the invaluable assistance of Labour's downward drift in support. The Government's confusing and constricting traffic-light system is increasingly alienating voters who rail at the restrictions and the seemingly endless time span it will run.
Others who have family abroad are incensed at healthy double-jabbed and tested returnees being bundled into expensive and time-consuming MIQ while Covid-infected Kiwis are told to stay home to isolate and, in a couple of cases, die.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand economy is wounded, with our level of national debt at a height not seen for decades. Businesses and people are becoming much more negative about our future prospects.
This is Luxon and the remodelled National line-up's opportunity. After a short burst of Parliament and a couple of months of summer quiescence to get their act together, 2022 could be the party's turnaround year.