Last week my producer received an email from Simon Bridges' office, asking whether we'd like to have the National Party leader on the wireless for a period of time. He was in Auckland doing the rounds, had a bit of time on his hands between engagements and he was happy to take questions from callers.
"Well, why not?" we thought.
There has been a standing invitation for the Prime Minister to come on the show since the beginning of the year, which she has yet to take up. Understandably I suppose. She would have far fewer gaps in her diary than the Leader of the Opposition. But seeing as we have extended the invitation to the PM, it seemed only fair that Bridges be given the same courtesy. And I was interested to see how he'd go.
There have been numerous talkback discussions throughout the year over Simon Bridges' ability to sell himself as the credible leader of the National Party. There have been a number of people who've identified themselves as National voters and who've said they want to see this coalition government gone but who would have to gird their loins and grit their teeth to tick blue with Bridges in charge.
To be fair, the first half of the year was a shocker for Bridges. There was the ongoing fall out from the unedifying, excruciatingly tawdry Jami-Lee Ross affair and the unsatisfactory culture review of the National party. There was Bridges dog-whistle response to just about any policy announcement from Labour, diluting his credibility and his impact. There were the poor personal polling results, although mitigated by steady party polling, and continual chatter of a leadership challenge.
Having Judith Collins on your left shoulder licking her chops would be unsettling for any leader of any party, to be fair. But then there was the National Party conference and the promise of a $200 million cancer drug fund and a new cancer agency if National were re-elected.
Labour hastily announced its own plans for a cancer agency in the wake of the announcement and National could justifiably claim that they had forced Labour's hand.
Simon Bridges was mocked for his accent - first by Winston Peters in the House, then in an attack ad produced by the Greens which backfired badly.
That, I think, is when the tide turned. New Zealanders are fair minded people. We don't like nastiness. Bridges' jibe that Jacinda Ardern was a part-time Prime Minister was also a petty, personal snipe but I guess that's politics.
So given the year Simon Bridges has had, I was interested to see how he'd perform when we opened the lines for an hour this week. And I was surprised and impressed. I let the callers put the majority of questions to him and he was succinct and on point. He apologised for things he thought National had done wrong when they were governing and he was humorous and charming when the opportunity arose.
Listeners were overwhelmingly positive - well, it wasn't a tough audience. It's Newstalk ZB - you're not going to get many hipster lefties phoning in. But many said they had changed their minds about his ability to lead National after listening to him for 60 minutes.
All in all, it was a win for Simon. We should be billing the National Party for the advertorial. But if he hadn't had the answers, if he hadn't had the poise, if he hadn't been prepared for all the topics thrown at him, he would have been exposed.
He's come a very long way. Whether he can go the distance remains to be seen.