Tova O'Brien: Simon Bridges' response to limogate borders on arrogance

OPINION: Leaving aside for a minute the hubbub over the leaking of Simon Bridges' expenses to Newshub or whether you think spending $113k of taxpayer's cash in three months is worthwhile or not, let's instead reflect on Bridges' response to limogate.

Newshub asked Bridges if he paused for thought when he first saw his whopping great limo bill, he didn't hesitate with his response, "NO."

"You didn't once think this was an overspend?" we asked. "No," Bridges fired back.

"Have you spent too much?" we asked. The response: "Nope."

"What about any apology to taxpayers for spending that much?" "Absolutely not".

This reeks of arrogance and Bridges should have taken a second, taken a breath and showed a bit more respect for the taxpayer.

No one is arguing that Simon Bridges shouldn't be getting out 'round the country, working hard, meeting Kiwis (the verbatim response we got from almost every MP in the National caucus).

But why not acknowledge that it is a helluva lot of money and perhaps seek to assure taxpayers you aren't wasting their cash and that you'll of course look at ways to take the sting out of the bill the next time round.

The Prime Minister knows all about spending up large on Crown limos - she racked up an equally eye-watering bill as Leader of the Opposition during the election campaign - $82,795. Bridges' spent $83,693.

Jacinda Ardern said she was surprised and disappointed when she saw her limo tab and changed her behaviour as a result.

Ardern and Bridges are outliers. Before them no Leader of the Opposition since Phil Goff in 2009 has come anywhere close to spending that much on Crown limos.

Back then Goff was also gobsmacked by his bill and pledged to cut back his limo use.

There are a few things to bear in mind here in Bridges' defence: Crown limos cost more for leaders of the opposition than ministers, Bridges lives in Tauranga and also the limos are a status thing - riding around in them looks Prime Ministerial and in terms of those kinds of 'optics' he has every right to be on an equal footing with the PM.


It wouldn't have taken much for Bridges to acknowledge the duty on MPs to spend taxpayers' money judiciously, to acknowledge the privilege of his position and to reassure the public he takes that duty and privilege seriously.

Instead he chose unrepentant indignation bordering on arrogance.

Then he doubled down. Demanding a High Court Judge take time out from their duties to oversee a full-blown forensic investigation into the leaking of his expenses which is due to come out later this week anyway.

A lot of people have been asking how damaging the spending spree and expenses leak has been to Bridges. It certainly doesn't help him but what's arguably more damaging is his brazen disregard of voters who paid his way.

Contrition doesn't cost a cent.

Tova O'Brien is Newshub's political editor.