Opinion: Simon Bridges winning race to be next National leader

Simon Bridges, National's next leader?
Simon Bridges, National's next leader? Photo credit: Newshub.

OPINION: Simon Bridges has made a flying start in the race to be the next leader of the National Party.

The political reality is that Bill English is unlikely to last the full term unless the coalition Government falls apart.

We saw the first sign this week that he may bail out. He has been absent from the public eye, prompting the question "Where's Bill?", and the follow up: "Who is next in line?".

So, while we don't know the distance, a race is on, and Simon Bridges has put himself well in front.

He had an aggressive start to this Parliamentary term, turning the House upside down and showing Labour who is boss on the opening day.

The symbolism of the show of force he exerted by making the Government question its numbers while trying to do a procedural election of a Speaker is that he is ready to take them on.

Simon Bridges challenging Labour's numbers in the House.
Simon Bridges challenging Labour's numbers in the House. Photo credit: Getty

The trajectory has been in place since he arrived in Parliament in 2008. He's had a succession of good jobs and none of his ministerial portfolios have caused him any grief.

He had a regular head-to-head slot with Jacinda Ardern on morning television in his early days, so he's proven he can match her.

And ever since then, like the Crown prosecutor he is by trade, he is building a compelling case.

When John Key resigned, instead of throwing his hat in the ring and taking on his obvious heir Bill English, he played the long game.

Bridges entered the race for Deputy, and in doing so represented the next generation and made some good political mates on National's backbench. Watch for the 'Four Amigos' (Mark Mitchell, Alfred Ngaro, Todd Muller and Chris Bishop) to be among his first backers when Bridges makes the move.

Just 12 months later he's found himself on the Opposition benches and has launched a series of blistering attacks on the new Government, whether in the House, through brutally worded press releases or by baiting Ministers on social media.

His wind-ups are so frequent we are at the point where he was called out for making a run by Phil Twyford on The AM Show today.

Of course, Bridges is not the only option for a successor to English.  

  • Judith Collins - Remains a total threat, performing incredibly in Opposition. She made her intentions clear at the first opportunity, running in the 2016 leadership race. It was clear she would not win when John Key bowed out, but she can never be ruled out.

  • Amy Adams - The former Justice Minister has already landed some solid strikes on the new Government and has been given portfolios that will continue to hit where it hurts - particularly Workplace Relations. Her move on Paid Parental Leave was a masterstroke.  

  • Paula Bennett - The job seemed hers a while ago, but at the moment, the desire doesn’t seem to be there. She seems happy taking a back seat after losing the Deputy Prime Minister spot.

  • Nikki Kaye - Represents the future and is National's face of Auckland. She's also beaten Jacinda Ardern twice in Auckland Central. If not leader, she could play Deputy to Bridges.

  • Steven Joyce - He only knows Parliament as a Cabinet Minister, so a smart bet would be that he wants to quit rather than languish on the Opposition benches, however a question mark hangs over whether he wants to be leader. He rose rapidly through the ranks and has done pretty much everything but.

While there are other options, none appear to stack up against Bridges.

When the time comes for National’s next generation to take the reins, he is the clear frontrunner.

Jenna Lynch is a Newshub political reporter.