Mark Sainsbury: Can Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett breathe life back into National?

Can Mr Bridges and Ms Bennett breathe life back into the party? Credit: Image: Newshub; Video: The AM Show

OPINION: So the people have spoken. Well, 56 of them anyway.

The 56 MPs in the National Party caucus have elected Simon Bridges as their new leader and, by virtue of that, Leader of the Opposition. And, as he would like to see himself, the Prime Minister in waiting.

It's not a bad gig for an ex-Cabinet minister - you get nearly $300,000 a year (in other words - your old ministerial salary), plus you get to keep the perks of the old job like the limo.

Remember this is foreign territory for many in the National caucus. They have never experienced the wilderness that is Opposition - and that includes Mr Bridges and Paula Bennett, the BB guns.

What National wants more than anything is to get back into power again, and that feeling will only get stronger.

But history would suggest that's not going to happen in the next election.

We've only had two one-term Governments in recent memory.

There was Labour 1957-1960 after the so-called 'Black Budget', which pushed up the price of grog and tobacco.

Then there was the Kirk Labour Government of 1972-1975, which saw the untimely death of the popular PM Norm Kirk.

And yes, this is MMP politics and things are different, but those 56 MPs in the National caucus will be watching and fretting and hoping.

So what sort of job will this new broom do and will anyone pay any attention?

And what about these suggestions that the caucus is out of step with the party by not installing Judith Collins as the deputy leader? She has the support of the rank and file it is claimed. Is that actually true?

According to political reporter Lloyd Burr, she only had two votes behind her - including her own - but to listen to Ms Collins you would think it was a near-run thing.

What National must be wary of is ensuring they don't go down the same route Labour did - flicking leaders when they realised they had bought a lemon, until nearly everyone has had a go.

Perhaps the new pairing (albeit with one recycled) will defy the pundits and breathe life back into the party. Do the BB guns do it for you?

There's also much being made of National having leaders with Māori heritage for the first time.

Great, but you know what? I'm waiting for that to be not so remarkable, just like it shouldn't be remarkable that a woman is Prime Minister.

For now we celebrate these achievements because they break the established mould, but bring on the day when the mould is no longer predetermined and we accept people on merit.

It's funny how the Māori heritage has never really come to the fore before the political realities suggest it would be useful.

National have had that chance in the past - once upon a time they had a very promising candidate for leader, one tipped to take that job by Rob Muldoon himself. His name was Winston Peters and they kicked him out of the party and he has remained a thorn in their side ever since.

In fact, as you will hear endlessly by bitter National Party members, that former National PM candidate just cost them the last election.

Mark Sainsbury is RadioLIVE's Morning Talk host.