COMMENT

I think it's sad National panicked three and half months out from an election, and I feel sorry for Simon Bridges, I believe he had the numbers on Friday - a last-minute change meant he suddenly didn't.

A coup looks shabby. It's grubby to have in-fighting and dissent inside a usually tight caucus, but that's all irrelevant now.

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Premium - National Party leader Todd Muller's reshuffle rebuff of Simon Bridges

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Politics moves fast. And it's brutal.

Now it's in the hands of new leader Todd Muller.

Much of the commentary has been around whether he can beat Jacinda Ardern.

But Ardern is not the government, he's already worked that out and that's clearly his playbook.

She's the face and the voice, but as she says herself, she's but one of a team. Many choose to forget that.

But liking her is what's obviously moved many National voters to Labour.

While personality politics isn't new, what's critical is the team behind her who'll run this country through the economic wilderness fast approaching. And that'll take more than warm words.

But, given people are still a bit possum in headlights from Covid-19, given many are still in some state of fear, or feeling raw and wanting the warm blanket of reassurance offered by Ardern, how does Muller tackle this?

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How does he take on the empathy juggernaut? How does he compete?

Bridges tried – and failed clearly – to be an opposition, at a time when there was no public appetite for one.

People wanted everyone to fall into line. Any criticism of the Government was deemed disrespectful, unpatriotic and unfair.

Do people still feel that way? If so, how do you even be an opposition? How do you set yourself apart?

You can talk about the depth and strength of your caucus until the cows come home, but if people have become attached to one smiling face beaming at them for several months straight, are they even listening?

Kate Hawkesby. File photo / Michael Craig
Kate Hawkesby. File photo / Michael Craig

That's what makes these next few weeks so fascinating. The clock is ticking.

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All the media's managed to come up with so far is to be exhaustively offended at a MAGA hat souvenir in his office. I'd take that as a compliment if I was him, if that's all they've got, that's saying something.

Given how quickly he deposed Bridges, Muller can clearly move at pace. He'll need to.

He's up against a public psyche that's been browbeaten by fear, lulled into a fairytale of handouts, happy faces, teddy bears and lounge room floor Facebook lives.

His gamble is that, by September, more of us will want solid solutions, rather than endless words of reassurance.