To say Simon Bridges was looking and sounding out of sorts would be an understatement as he fronted the media on his way into Parliament's bear pit after what was clearly a raucous caucus.

The rattled National leader usually lingers until the questions have been exhausted. This time he was hoofing it into the House after just three minutes of grilling.

This is a leader under siege and it shows.


In the space of a few hours Bridges had done a spectacular somersault. Going into his caucus meeting he repeated time and time again he trusted his colleagues - but repeatedly refused to specifically extend that trust to the ever smiling and outwardly serene Judith Collins. He accused the media of playing silly games.

Just over an hour after the meeting broke up he was playing the silly game himself, extending his trust to Collins without even being solicited to do so. In fact not only is he now trusting her, he tells us he's set her a task "to get out there and go at it, she does the attack role really well."

In fact he might find that out sooner rather than later.

Judith Collins at yesterday's caucus meeting. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Judith Collins at yesterday's caucus meeting. Photo / Mark Mitchell

So what changed his mind? Well that question was met with a guffaw from him that the media's over-analysing things. Now that could be taken as flattery, but given his distinct and bleedingly obvious change of heart, it's hardly a back slapping observation.

Bridges told us his caucus meeting was great, it's strong and united, ready to get on with the job. He didn't expand on what job, because maybe he thought better of it.

But there was a lot of virtual signalling going on among his colleagues. The two sharpest dressers of the day were the ambitious Collins and Paula Bennett, with standout jackets and neatly coiffed hair. Talk to the analyst and they'll tell you what that means.

And walking in formation to the meeting, parading to the media, was Mark Mitchell, who once had leadership ambitions but pulled out after realising he couldn't win, his buddy Alfred Ngaro and Todd McClay, who was the one insiders say was going to grill Collins at the meeting.

That job was apparently left to a woman with not much to lose: Anne Tolley, who quizzed the cool, calm and collected Collins who maintained she was unaware of what all the fuss was about, answered the questions without becoming flustered while at the same time staring down Bridges. That apparently found a good measure of sympathy in the caucus.


These things have a life and this one is beginning to flat line.