'Clever' Jacinda Ardern upstaged Simon Bridges - commentator

Jacinda Ardern's baby update - delivered right before Simon Bridges was due to speak at the National Party conference on Sunday - has been described as a "clever" move to deny him airtime.

The Prime Minister, close to the end of her short maternity break, appeared live on Facebook to tease an employment-related announcement that'll be made in her first week back in the job full-time.

Shortly afterwards Mr Bridges took the stage at SkyCity in Auckland to deliver the keynote speech at Nationals' annual conference.

Political commentator, PR expert and former ACT press secretary Trish Sherson praised the first-time mother's timing.

"I had a look around the news sites at four o'clock last night - John Key was leading the story around the economic downturn, and Jacinda - those two were battling it out - with her incredibly clever baby message, so clever."

Left-wing commentator Chris Trotter, appearing alongside Ms Sherson, said the vague content of Mr Bridges' speech didn't help.

"Who could argue with the idea of more teachers? Apparently except the National Party five or six years ago, which was a little embarrassing."

Mr Bridges' promise has been described as short on detail, and contrasts with the party's plan a few years back to increase class sizes to save money.

"As leader you've got to be able to lead the news cycle," said Ms Sherson. "It didn't quite get there because there was nothing really new."

The decision to open the conference on Saturday with an appearance by 79-year-old former Australian Prime Minister John Howard left Ms Sherson scratching her head.

"If you think about where the battle for National now is, it's a battle for the future and John Howard's not really the face of that," said Ms Sherson.

Mr Trotter saw some logic in it, however.

"National knows that the elderly, who are the best voters in the country are also the most conservative voters in this country, would have responded well."

Simon Bridges lays down a funky beat.
Simon Bridges lays down a funky beat. Photo credit: National

He also said Mr Howard would have been allowed to say things Mr Bridges might agree with, but couldn't say out loud.

"They brought in John Howard to say all the things everyone was feeling but none of the leaders could actually say, ie. 'We was robbed, it was unjust.' That was clever. John Howard is a good performer, and he set a tone which the delegates would have enjoyed, because I think that rankles still."

Another veteran who got plenty of airtime at the conference was NZ First leader and Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters - though not in person. Ms Sherson said National Party president Peter Goodfellow spend a lot of time hammering Mr Peters, who started his political career in National.

"I wouldn't have said that was potentially the best strategy, because you just gave Winston more air time."

Mr Bridges also spent time talking about Mr Peters when he appeared on The AM Show earlier, refusing to rule out working with him after the 2020 election.

"We've got a long time to go until the election. We'll make clear those sort of things in election year."

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Ms Sherson said the Nats should have instead made overtures to the Greens.

"Where is the talk about potentially working with the Greens? They are still the most viable."

Mr Trotter shut that down pretty fast.

"More and more of the National Party have come to understand the Greens are an irretrievably left-wing party and they will never, ever [go with National]," he said.

"I think the New Zealand Green Party is amongst the most left-wing in the world."