National has a number of very large problems. They're stuck in a negative rut, criticising every little thing the Government does while at the same time not looking like they have many ideas of their own. They have a leader who the people of New Zealand don't seem to have warmed to, and they've got a trio of fairly gross individuals pretty much holding them ransom.
When this Government was first formed, then-leader of National, Bill English, said "it's not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government". He also said "You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament". Then he lost his job.
Simon Bridges came in as Leader of the Opposition and hasn't really changed tack. He finds a way to criticise everything the Government does. He's probably going to lose his job.
Sir Bill was right, it is definitely not the job of the Opposition to run the place for the Government, but I think our opposition parties get caught up in the semantics of it all. The word opposition makes them think they have to fight the Government on the beaches, the landing grounds, the fields and in the streets.
Sure, hold the Government to account, but aimlessly criticising their every move is a really unappealing strategy. Didn't anybody learn anything from the Greens or Labour during their years in opposition? Relentlessly attacking John Key and National got them absolutely nowhere. National stubbornly held on to its polling of about 47 per cent despite every car that went past getting a bark.
In opposition it's easy to get trapped into thinking that you see through the Government or the Prime Minister. They're a sham! A fraud! They're useless! And if you just keep banging that drum, the country will finally realise. "Why, you're the best party after all". I can personally attest to this. I was in Parliament with the Greens watching every poll, staggered at the popularity of Key and National.
What finally shifted momentum back to Labour though, was Jacinda Ardern giving many New Zealanders something to aspire to, something to hope for and something to be inspired by.
Over the weekend Labour held its conference and in her speech the Prime Minister announced the creation of 600 Learning Support Coordinators to help children with high needs at school. This is something that teachers have been wanting for a long time. Catherine Delahunty did a huge amount of work in this space while I worked with her at the Greens, and it's a wonderful thing to see it bear fruit. I didn't think you could slice this negatively. But National tried! Immigration and Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse tweeted that "In her self congratulatory conference speech the PM says nothing about the risk takers, entrepreneurs and small business owners that fund her Government's largesse. Not. One. Word".
The PM also didn't mention police officers, firefighters, or character actress Margo Martindale, but they seem to have coped with the oversight. Coped. With. It. Fine.
As a small business owner, I don't need a cookie from the Prime Minister when she announces more staff for high need kids. I just think that's what should be done.
If the Government is doing something you fundamentally disagree with, or if you believe it's a truly bad idea, then by all means, use your platform of being in opposition to speak out against it. But don't just speak out against them for the sake of being oppositional. It didn't work for Labour for nine long years, it's not going to work out for you, National.
And now today we have another Jami-Lee Ross tape. This one presents a continuation of the problems already facing National but with some added sting. The tape seems to suggest that if Jami-Lee went away and was a good boy he might come back with a promotion. Whether or not Simon Bridges meant this, or was just trying to soften Jami-Lee's exit is impossible to know. But it sounds really bad. And if he lied to Jami-Lee about it then how do we know what he's saying to the public is the truth?
It also sounds like leaking the leader's travel expenses is a worse crime in Bridges' eyes than harassing women. The harassment was just cause for Jami-Lee going on leave and recovering. Leaking the expenses warranted caucus expulsion.
This narrative is also starting to counter Bridges and Paula Bennett's concern for Jami-Lee's mental health.
And all this is hurting National if Labour's latest internal polling is to be believed. After a terrible week and less than stellar Colmar Brunton result, National has apparently dropped further. Bridges supposedly has a favourability well below negative 20, while the Government plus Greens has a lead of more than 20 points on National, who has dropped below 40.
National is trapped. If they knife Bridges and Bennett then they are rewarding Ross, Slater and Lusk. And does anyone really want to open those gates of hell? If they knife Bridges and Bennett and install Collins then they are rewarding them big time. And nobody wants to be controlled by Ross, Slater or Lusk.
- David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying