COMMENT

I am not the first person to have observed the political year has gotten off to a splendid start for the leader of the Opposition, notwithstanding the MediaWorks poll which (if it proves more than a rogue result) might dent proceedings slightly.

Simon Bridges will be and should be feeling a bit better in 2019 than he did in 2018.
His prosperous start came from his state of the nation speech and the tax bracket changes he announced - people love money in their pockets.

But it's also been partly funded by the Government, who had to confirm to the world what most of us had all ready worked out, namely KiwiBuild was a house of cards collapsing in on itself.

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He's probably further enhanced his credentials as a potential prime minister now that the Provincial Growth Fund looks like it might be falling into a KiwiBuild-style hole as well.

There is a theme developing. Lots of noise, announcements and committees, but when the questions are asked, not a lot of actual production in terms of jobs or houses or outcomes.

That's made even worse of course given one of the announcements was that this was to be the "year of delivery".

Now the reason this is all good for Bridges is the truism, in the political game, that often your best days come from the other blokes' worst days.

Governments lose elections, oppositions rarely win them.

When a government fails to deliver, looks out of touch or incompetent or tired, an opposition automatically gains.

You'll be amazed to reminisce by December this year, if this current government keeps going the way it is, just how polished and professional and ready for office Bridges looks.

Now, in the spirit of being helpful, I have advice for Simon on how he can own a bit of this himself and propel his chances ever higher - or if you subscribe to the poll results then to dig himself out of a hole.

One, get rid of Jami-Lee Ross. And two, rule out doing a deal with Winston Peters.

Ross is your worst sort of MP, a self-serving grandstander. He is not as dangerous as he appeared at first blush, given he promised at that jaw-dropping press conference last year to bring the house down before realising he hadn't brought the matches.

But he is the sort of person who the media sadly can't ignore and the Sarah Dowie debacle is all the proof you need.

Bridges has the answer but seems reluctant to use it — the waka law of Winston.

Why National don't like it, I have no idea. From Alamein Kopu to Brendan Horan to Jami-Lee Ross, they are the outliers who are or were in work because of their party and yet choose to destroy it all and still expect the baubles of office.

It's a dishonest practice that this law addresses. In fact this law was written in many respects for Jami-Lee Ross-type situations.

Bridges going round with his fingers in his ears saying 'I'm ignoring him, I'm ignoring him', will not solve his problem.

Yes, they hated the law. Swallow your pride, use it, and you'll be amazed how (a) the problem vanishes and (b) you look like a better more decisive leader.

Which brings us to Winston Peters.

By not ruling him out, Bridges looks weak, he looks desperate, he looks like a bloke uncertain of victory and holding out hope they can repair all the damage and patch together a haphazard sort of love affair post 2020 if the numbers fall their way.

Simon - let me tell you straight. Peters shafted you, and he will shaft you again if he gets the chance. By not ruling him out you give him oxygen and life.

It is little short of a political miracle Peters has been able to conduct himself the way he has all these years, surviving in part because the players who could've ended it were too weak to do so.

By the end of this term Jacinda might well regret she ever got picked (read Mathew Hooton's column last Friday, he's onto it).

Which is not to say New Zealand First won't be back, they're always close to 5 per cent.
And Northland now given the PGF money surely has enhanced their chances of a seat.

But National needs to look and be bold, confident, and that comes from the top down.
There is everything to play for, a government in real trouble, a leader with a good start to the year and the chance to act decisively and cement his place.

My advice is simple: seize the day Simon - pull the trigger on both of them.