This week’s leadership is brought to you by the number 4

Henry Cooke’s latest piece suggests that the National Party is currently characterized by a great deal of nervous excitement or energy. Are they excited? Are they nervous? No doubt, some will be worried for having hitched their wagon to the wrong star. Quote.

It is a febrile time within the National Party.

There have been worse times for leader Simon Bridges. The Jami-Lee Ross week last year was so painful at points it felt pertinent to remind yourself that the National Party had existed for close to a century, and would probably survive this.

It did, as did Bridges’ leadership.

The Easter break will provide a useful respite for Bridges, some time away from the cameras and caucus. But he should be chasing cameras right now. End quote.

Why? The cameras and the press never do him any favours. Quote.

The immediate issue facing Bridges is the “emotional junior staffer” saga. […] End quote.

We can skip the details. Quote.

[…] plenty of people know that leaks from within the party did not stop once Ross was expelled. That’s probably why detailed polling seems to no longer be shared with caucus.

And yet it is the polls keeping Bridges breathing. Reid Research/Business NZ polls have found Labour up and National down – but not dramatically. Labour were close to 50 while National sat at 41.3 per cent.

It is the “4” before the poll number which is magic. The difference between 40 per cent and 39.5 per cent in a regular poll is a handful of people, but it is a hugely important distinction, psychologically. If National is above 40, even well behind Labour, it is still in serious running for the next election. Bridges could end up a bit like Bill Shorten, the unpopular leader of the popular Australian Labor Party, who will probably win next month’s election.

Despite the problems Bridges has getting his personal numbers up, National has been getting plenty of traction in recent months. It’s understood that before the mosque attacks, internal polls had them doing very well as the Government struggled to defend a capital gains tax it hadn’t actually endorsed. Those gains have been lost, but probably not forever.

Another problem for any of the various contenders to replace Bridges is the messiness of doing so. They all watched Labour tear themselves apart over this, with the only successful change taking place cleanly (in public at least) after former leader Andrew Little fell on his sword.

Bridges isn’t going to do that any time soon. It’s thought that Judith Collins won’t make a move unless she can be close to certain she would win a caucus vote. And there is plenty of chatter about Mark Mitchell and Paula Bennett readying themselves to be the non-Collins non-Bridges ticket. End quote.

Is there any truth to the rumour that Mitchell and Bennett will be “having a cup of tea” on their trip to the USA next month? Quote.

The magic number isn’t the only safety rail for Bridges. He also has the helpful fact that National were probably always doomed to lose the 2020 election, meaning plenty of contenders might be happy to watch him do so. Many, but maybe not all. End quote.

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