I sat next to Simon Bridges in the makeup room for Breakfast TV once, and he announced that everything he said I was going to disagree with. Which I thought was unfair – I expected to disagree with most of it but certainly not all.
Still, it was his day. It's my perception that the better looking you are, the more time and effort they put into your makeup. Yes, I know, that is counter-intuitive. But I got 15 seconds, the mere wave of a powder puff, and Simon Bridges was in there from dawn to brunchtime.
And yet, turns out it takes more than good looks to lead a political party. Who knew.
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As I write this, it's not clear if Bridges has walked the plank or will be keelhauled for refusing to, or perhaps even if he will fight off his attackers. But he must know they'll keep coming at him until they win. Pirates never give up, and pirates are what all backbench MPs turn into when it looks like the ship's going down.
Actually, my guess is he won't walk. Bridges is stubborn, let's give him that. And the thing about really stubborn people is that you can't tell them it's not attractive, because they're already stubbornly refusing to listen. Believe me, I know.
The other thing about Bridges, which was evident as he sat there with the makeup shroud around his neck, is that he's always on. He is a man who stubbornly does not stop trying: to be listened to, liked, taken seriously, admired.
And yet the people do not admire him or like him. Why is that?
Let it be said, he did some good work. Most of all, he led his party into the parliamentary consensus on how to confront the climate crisis. It was a courageous thing to do, especially as the sniping from some core sections of National Party support just never stops.
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The country is in a better place because he won that battle and so is the party, and it's a fabulous thing that the only contender to emerge from the current meltdown is on the same side. Todd Muller, in fact, was the guy who did the hard work to get it done.
My take is that people don't like Simon Bridges because he seems, to use a word much loved in marketing, inauthentic. It's harder than it looks, trying to impress people. You can't let them see you try: it looks fake. And the more Bridges tried, the worse it got.
What does he stand for? Well, how committed is he really on climate change? As for law and order, he thumps every tub he can find, which always seems incredibly fake when it comes from a former courtroom lawyer.
They, after all, are the people who know full well that crime and justice are much more complex than the tub-thumper pretends. They know, too, how limiting it is to allow "corrections" to be driven by a public lust for punishment.
Also, there's transport, for which Bridges was minister during part of the term of the last Government. He proudly supported e-vehicles, but in what transformative way? He proudly signed off on Auckland's City Rail Link, but while he "supported" public transport he doubled down as a champion for more motorways.
Just some of the ways Bridges didn't see opportunity even when it rose in front of him. It's the 21st century now. Imagine a former Crown prosecutor who leads a centre-right party towards enlightened reform of justice and corrections. Imagine being the former kid from West Auckland who knows why a rapid transit network is vital for the future of Auckland. He could have been great.
And now, either right now or soon, it's the Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye show. What connects those two? The answer may surprise you: it's Green MP Chloe Swarbrick. My theory is that this whole thing is part of her masterplan to promote her campaign to win Auckland Central.
When Swarbrick was heckled in Parliament this year, during a speech on climate change, she shot back with "Okay boomer" and that shot went all the way round the world.
The heckler was Todd Muller.
And now she's standing in Nikki Kaye's seat, which Kaye has held since 2008, although currently with a slim majority of just 1581 votes.
Labour is putting up local lawyer Helen White, who also stood in 2017. It's a minor surprise. Although almost the whole country swung towards Labour that year, White managed to achieve a swing the other way, towards Nikki Kaye.
Does that mean Labour will give a sly nod to Swarbrick – soy flat whites in a Ponsonby cafe, perhaps, with the media crowded around outside? That would be fun. Although, somehow, unlikely.
One to watch, though. If National's polling doesn't improve, Nikki Kaye will be fighting for her political life in that seat, and if the Greens' polling doesn't improve Chloe Swarbrick could be doing exactly the same.
Meanwhile, what will Bridges do? He can't go off like Phil Goff and become mayor of his hometown, Tauranga. The job's already taken: entrepreneurial businessman Tenby Powell crushed the election last year. Maybe he'll become a drummer in a band.
Powell's victory should have been a sign lit up in neon for National. In provincial Tauranga, a friendly centre-right candidate with fresh ideas and a palpable disdain for the establishment carried the day.
Since then, he's got into trouble for calling a fellow councillor a "climate-denying racist", which is definitely a throw-down to all the old thinking out there. Powell, you have to think, is modelling a new version of centre-right politics, and is popular with it.
What is Bridges' problem, really? He's the old guard, isn't he, without actually being the old guard? Younger than John Key and Bill English but not in any material way a progression from them. It's true many voters still hanker after the real Key and English, but we now know they have no interest in a Mini-Me imitation.