Simon Bridges no longer a 'poor' leader - Willie Jackson

Simon Bridges is improving as leader of the Opposition, a high-ranking Labour MP has admitted.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is slipping, says Willie Jackson - but still the best MP New Zealand has to offer.

Asked on The AM Show on Friday who the outstanding performer in Parliament was in 2019, Jackson said it was "absolutely no doubt Jacinda Ardern".

"What a magnificent year... The way she handled things, particularly after the tragedy in Christchurch, magnificent. Then she pulled all those tech giants in - that's no easy task."

Ardern's empathetic response to the March tragedy, in which a suspected white supremacist gunman murdered 51 people at two mosques, was praised worldwide

She later convened the Christchurch Call with French President Emmanual Macron, which saw dozens of countries and tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon and Microsoft pledge to eradicate terrorist and violent extremist content

But on the domestic policy front, the Government at times struggled - KiwiBuild and the backdown on a comprehensive capital gains tax the most notable examples. 

"She started the year 10 out of 10, and it's been a tough year, a trying year," admitted Jackson. "She was 10 out of 10, I'd say she was nine out of 10 at the end of the year. An outstanding year."

National leader Bridges had a horrid 2018, with constant rumours of a leadership spill and the Jami-Lee Ross omnishambles. But Jackson admitted the Tauranga MP's had a better time in 2019.

"Simon Bridges started off the year at one out of 10 - he's gone from poor to five out of 10. He's gone from poor to average. So well done Simon Bridges. Poor to average, that's not too bad."

National MP Judith Collins - who briefly surpassed Bridges in the preferred PM rankings earlier this year - said Labour MPs had to talk up Ardern's performance regardless of reality.

"They're not allowed to say anything other than 'Jacinda is my cult hero and that's what I have to bow down to every day'."

Judith Collins and Willie Jackson.
Judith Collins and Willie Jackson. Photo credit: The AM Show

But she admitted Ardern was Labour's best performer - at least when it comes to appearances. 

"You take Jacinda out, there's what? Andrew Little? You know where that was going," she said, referring to Labour's struggles in the polls when Little was leader in 2017, prior to Ardern's ascension.

"She's done well with empathy. She hasn't done anything on performance other than empathy. Best performer? I think Simon Bridges has had a good year. But I also think there are a lot of people in our caucus that have worked really hard and done really well." 

Asked what the best thing the Government did in 2019 was, Collins said it was admitting KiwiBuild "was a total crock". 

Jackson said the best thing National did all year was to vote with them on big issues like climate change and the gun buyback.

"We really enjoyed watching Judith vote with us on the Zero Carbon Bill. The best thing they do is agree with us, and they agreed with us on the guns."

Next year there will be an election. Bridges still faces an uphill battle to take Ardern's job, despite National polling ahead of Labour recently. The most recent Newshub-Reid Research poll had the National-ACT bloc winning 58 seats, compared to Labour and the Greens getting 62, assuming New Zealand First fall below the 5 percent threshold to enter Parliament. 

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