'Bugger the PC brigade': Simon Bridges takes crack at political correctness

Simon Bridges is taking a crack at "political correctness", opening up about his belief that New Zealanders need to be able to "say what they think".

The National Party leader told Magic Talk he wants to "make sure that people can say what they think even where it's a bit un-PC [politically correct]".

"I think we've got a situation through education and the media - certain parts of the media - there's things that are off-limits in New Zealand that we're not allowed to talk about, and I think that's not healthy."

Bridges pointed to some backlash he received earlier this year when he accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of being a "part-time" leader when she visited Tokelau.

He was critical at the time of Ardern organising the trip during a week when Parliament was sitting, despite the fact no sitting Prime Minister had visited the New Zealand-dependent territory since 2004.

"People had me on about saying the PM's part-time, saying you can't say that... Well actually, you can, because New Zealanders want to know what you really think about things," Bridges told Magic Talk.

He said that "doesn't mean you become someone suffering from verbal diarrhoea where you say the first thing that pops into your head... You've got to have some appropriate decorum about what you say".

Bridges added, "But I think we've got to be careful to make sure people can say what they think and bugger the PC brigade."

It's not the first time Bridges has lashed out at political correctness. 

Last year he joked about gender-neutrality on Radio Hauraki's breakfast show. He suggested Ardern's baby Neve would grow up "going to school like in boy's clothes". 

The National leader has been an advocate for freedom of speech, earlier this year labelling ACT leader David Seymour's proposed Freedom to Speak Bill "alluring".

Seymour proposed preventing the Government from punishing people for making comments that are considered offensive or insulting. He said free debate was important so "bad ideas" could be thrown out.

Bridges told Magic Talk he's comfortable with where both he and his party are at as the 2020 general election looms, with National ahead in the polls.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll shows National up 6.5 percent to 43.9, while Labour was down 9.2 percent to 41.6 percent.

"I think what it basically says is people look at the Government, they're full of big talk, there's lots of PR and branding and so on, but they're not actually doing what they said," Bridges said.

"New Zealanders are saying, 'You know what, you're two years in and you just sort of haven't done anything you said'... They know with National they know what they get."

But public support for Bridges as preferred Prime Minister is still low compared to Jacinda Ardern.

Despite that, Bridges looked at the bright side, pointing to his 2.5 percent increase in Newshub's poll to 6.7 percent, behind Ardern's 38.4 percent.

"I appreciate it's small, but I think it does show that under my leadership - you look at both the party vote which is what really matters, and my vote - we're doing pretty well."

Bridges said if National is elected in 2020, the first year will be "action-packed across economic, health, social and environment as well".

He also brushed off more criticism from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters over the weekend at the party's annual conference in Christchurch.

"He mentioned us 15 times," Bridges said, referring to Peters' speech to supporters.

"We don't think about you anywhere near as much as you clearly focus on us... We're focused on New Zealanders."