Opinion: Dear Todd, the honeymoon is over - welcome to political leadership in New Zealand

OPINION: Dear Todd Muller, welcome to life as the leader of a political party in New Zealand. You must have had the shortest honeymoon period of any incumbent. 

The gloss from your bloodless coup getting rid of Simon Bridges and your new-look-National speech as you took over the reins a few short days ago has now worn off. How long ago those Halcyon days must feel now. 

Todd who? People asked as you came storming out of the shadows to take control of a party that is at the lowest point it has been in years. 

Surely things couldn't get any worse? 

Well you have learned lesson number one very quickly - you are no longer in the shadows, no longer invisible. Every move you make, every word you speak will now be analysed, and you seem woefully unprepared for that.  

Your appearance on The AM Show this morning was nothing short of a train wreck. Ryan Bridge is a skilled interviewer, but it was not a hostile interview. 

You were challenged on a topic that was in the news yesterday - the lack of Maori politicians in your shadow cabinet, yet you still didn't seem able to answer the questions with any authority. 

Instead you fumbled through a response about putting Paula Bennett and Dr Shane Reti up against Willie Jackson, to which Bridge rightfully rolled his eyes. 

Bridge put you under pressure a few times during the interview and your composure fell as you fumbled for a response. 

Your performance on TV One, in another relatively unhostile interview with John Campbell, wasn't much better.  

Then there was your Trump, MAGA baseball cap, which has since become, in the eyes of some, symbolic of many of the things that are wrong in this world.  

But it was mischief-making by the media to suggest you agreed with those views and the hat was anything more than just a souvenir you bought in 2016. 

It is a distraction and by giving the media a whiff of weakness they jumped on it.    

I don't often find myself agreeing with Mark Richardson, but he was spot on when he said on The AM Show you should have shut these stories down. 

"He [Muller] should not have buckled on the Trump hat. He should have said, 'that is a ridiculous argument, I don't want to hear it again'", Richardson said in a heartfelt speech afterwards. 

You don't have to look far to find two masters of shutting down topics. John Key had his "I think most New Zealanders would agree with me," line. 

I once heard him brush off Auckland's traffic woes by saying most towns in New Zealand would like to have the city's traffic problems. It was a genius deflection. 

And you just have to look across the divide in Parliament to see another great deflector. 

Jacinda Ardern has her smile, which she uses to great effect when she needs to buy herself time to answer a curly question, or she wants to defuse a tense situation.  

There is an assumption in New Zealand that because someone is successful in business they will make a good politician. 

But being good in a boardroom is very different to performing on the political stage. 

You do not have an opposition trying to undermine you, nor do you have the media holding your performances to account. 

We all think we could do a better job of running the country, but being able to be grilled live on TV and give a good account of yourself is a skill not many of us possess. It is one you need to improve very quickly. 

As Richardson said on The AM Show: 

"So far, apart from the pre-prepared speeches that he's given in Parliament that have been good, he has failed every time he's stood in front of the media." 

You made a bold statement that behind Jacinda Ardern there were "17 empty seats." Well it's looking increasingly like, for political nous at least, there is an empty seat at the head of National.  

Mark Longley is the managing editor of Newshub digital