Simon Bridges' first outing as new National leader will not get the rave reviews that Jacinda Ardern received at hers. It was not what you'd call electrifying.

But it wasn't boring either. That is crucial because he has to hold the interest of voters before he can get his message across.

He looked relaxed at the lectern holding his press conference even if he didn't feel it.

And for emphasis, he frequently put his hand in his pocket as though he had been elected National leader 100 times before.

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New National Party leader Simon Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New National Party leader Simon Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He made much, but not too much, of the fact that National has elected a Maori leader in himself and deputy leader in Paula Bennett – although like Winston Peters he tends to describe Maori in terms of "they" rather than "we."

He answered questions with more authority than he usually shows.

He deftly deflected the questions he couldn't possibly answer in these early days without looking as though he was dodging.

It was polished, but not too polished, especially if you closed your eyes and listened. He may be Oxford educated but it was pure Te Atatu.

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Simon Bridges is National Party's new leader, Paula Bennett remains deputy

It was a less polished affair in House, in his first Question Time up against Jacinda Ardern, as it should be.

The gloves came off, and he aimed directly for the Government's jugular - New Zealand First's $3 billion slush fund" that will be distributed to the regions over the next three years.

He successfully highlighted the fact that the first $60 million was going to projects that had been underway in the National Government, and that they were primarily in Northland, an electoral target for New Zealand First and the fund's overseer, Shane Jones, and that one of the private sector advisers on the fund was a political donor to Jones and the other key minister, David Parker.

He had the Opposition benches barracking behind him at Ardern's answers.

Bridges and Ardern have debated often before, duelling regularly on morning television where they were both up-and-comers in their parties. And she gave back today as good as she got.

From 'Young Guns' to top jobs: Eight years ago Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern were fresh-faced MPs talking politics on TVNZ's Breakfast show. Now they're National and Labour leaders.
From 'Young Guns' to top jobs: Eight years ago Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern were fresh-faced MPs talking politics on TVNZ's Breakfast show. Now they're National and Labour leaders.

Question Time brought out the mongrel in Bridges, but it also brought out the mongrel in Ardern.

She demanded to know whether Bridges was suggesting Northland should not get Government assistance, she seized the opportunity to talk about the neglect of the region and she asked him about the bridges he had promised during the 2015 byelection campaign in Northland.

If today's performance is anything to go by, he will take the fight to Ardern in a way she is not used to. But if today's performance is anything to go by, she will handle it ably.