Commenting on politics isn't an easy task. The people you talk about and criticise, you deal with every day.

Usually it's the leaders of the two main political parties, Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges.

Before taking over from Andrew Little as Labour Party leader, Ardern was a relatively unknown quantity, even though she came into Parliament the year John Key became Prime Minister. Perhaps that's why she remained beneath the radar, the limelight was always very much Key's to bathe in.


Catapulted into the leadership, and then into the job she said she had never wanted, she's become not only a household name in this country but abroad as well, where she shines. Overseas there's a curiosity factor. Every time she travels the nationwide television shows clamour for her to make a guest appearance and when she obliges she does it with humility and acquits herself and this country well.

The same goes when she meets other leaders; they seek her out, she's engaging. Even the stodgy royal family seemed impressed.

Back home she's had her trials this year, but for her that's political reality. She'd be ill-advised to ever again use the phrase "read between the lines". It was an invitation that came back to bite her and damage the Government for the silly Karel Sroubek immigration decision.

Like John Key, Ardern likes to be liked - and, like him, that's not hard to do.

The same can also be said of Simon Bridges, who has a warm and friendly manner.

He's an engaging, self-deprecating character, often joking about his unusual, round-vowel way of speaking. When he reflects on the past year, he should think about the phrase "I have done absolutely nothing wrong". Clearly he'd done a lot wrong in pressing ahead, against all advice, with an inquiry into a piffling leak over his travel expenses, not long before they were officially released.

He could never have envisaged the wrath of Jami-Lee Ross, or maybe he should have. His handling of it has undoubtedly damaged his leadership. Only next year will tell whether it's irreparable.

Meanwhile, Bridges is stoic, telling me in a Christmas card that he tries not to take my rather consistent editorial line too personally.


There's nothing personal about being a theatre critic, for that's what this business is at times: pure theatre.