Simon Bridges' 'song and dance' under scrutiny

This week's Parliament walkout will have Simon Bridges feeling on the front-foot heading into the summer break, says political commentator Trish Sherson.

National MPs up and left on Wednesday in protest over what they say was Prime Minister's failure to answer questions on the Karel Sroubek case, and Speaker Trevor Mallard's ordering of Simon Bridges and Gerry Brownlee to leave the House.

"The reality is the Prime Minister was not answering questions about the Karel Sroubek situation," Mr Brownlee told The AM Show on Monday morning. "There are still a large number of questions that do need to be answered."

Mr Bridges arguably broke parliamentary convention not to criticise the Speaker, saying "here comes the protection" when Mr Mallard moved to shut down debate.

Trevor Mallard.
Trevor Mallard. Photo credit: Parliament TV

"This has been building up all year... this tension between National and the Speaker," Ms Sherson, former ACT staffer and political commentator, told The AM Show on Thursday.

"Trevor has been known as the bovver-boy in Parliament for Labour. He's been the kicker and the tough guy, so to put him in the role of Speaker is a little bit different. If you do think of other Speakers, they haven't been really in that front-row, tough guy of politics."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters used the walkout to take aim at Mr Bridges' leadership.

"They went out in drips and drabs," he said. "It looked like the first loyal group of about six went out and then about 12 others decided they might be loyal and then the rest decided they better show some loyalty as well."

Ms Sherson said it was a bit ironic for Mr Peters to criticise the walkout.

"Winston Peters is one of the people who has worn the carpet bare exiting Parliament after amateur dramatics. He loves that stuff. Bridges is probably thinking it's the last few weeks, it has put him on the front foot."

Mr Peters has been ejected from the House numerous times in his lengthy career. He even released a list in 2016 showing he'd been booted out six times since 2008 - behind only present Speaker Mr Mallard, who racked up 10 sin-bin appearances in the same timeframe.

"They need a cup of tea and a lie down," said Ms Sherson. "The problem for Parliament this year - it's going right up until Thursday the 20th, which is quite unusual. Normally they'd sort of finish at the end of this week, which is a good thing. I think everyone wants them to take a break."

In defence of the Speaker

Left-leaning political commentator Chris Trotter told The AM Show Mr Bridges had been questioning Ms Ardern for eight minutes already when Mr Mallard stepped in.

"I thought the Prime Minister handled the questioning very adroitly. You could see Simon Bridges becoming more and more frustrated... He got to the end and then he was moving into the ducking and fiving language, and that's when Trevor stood up.

"Now, if Trevor had stood up after the 30 seconds of questioning, the 'here comes the protection' throwaway line might have had some validity. But the Prime Minister had been answering Simon Bridges' questions for eight minutes."

He said MPs shouldn't attack the Speaker or bring them "into the hurly-burly of Parliamentary life".

"Regardless of what you think of that person as an individual, the role is absolutely crucial to the proper running of the House. It is very unwise to make the comments of the sort Simon Bridges made yesterday."

Ms Sherson agreed on that point, saying Mr Bridges reminded her of "a kid who has been really frustrated with mum".

"He's like, 'I'm going to get you mum, and I'm going to be sent to my room, but I'm going to make a huge song and dance about it.'"

The last mass walkout of Parliament happened in 2015, when several female MPs left after then-Prime Minister John Key accused Labour of protecting rapists.