OPINION: Who is Simon Bridges? It’s a question many New Zealanders genuinely don’t know the answer to.
While Bridges has spent the past week talking to a couple of hundred people in Hawke’s Bay, and business leaders in Auckland, his counterpart has been having high-powered trade and security talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
There’s nothing quite like photos of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outside No 10 and on the steps of Elysee Palace to remind Bridges of his place in the world.
Opposition leader really is half the fun – no wonder it’s called the worst job in politics – and as Bridges heads to Hawaii on a pre-booked holiday with his family he’ll be plotting how he finds some of that name recognition that Ardern has long enjoyed and continues to build on.
We live in the age of personality politics, and Bridges and Ardern both have problems, just not the same ones.
Based on the latest poll, Ardern’s personal brand is relatively intact, while her party dropped five percentage points.
Bridges, however, is sat in Opposition, with his party of 56 MPs in first place in the polls on 44 per cent, but voters aren’t too sure about him leading the country.
If Labour isn’t already having kittens, they will be when they realise National’s internal polling saw the Opposition hit 50 this week.
Ironically, the reason Bridges has so little name recognition is probably in part because of the role played by his former colleague Steven Joyce – the same guy who was left little choice but to move on from politics when Bridges won the leadership.
Bridges followed Joyce’s steps into communications, transport and economic development ministerial roles but, because Joyce had so much influence and power as both John Key and Bill English’s right-hand man, Bridges was only ever a behind-the-scenes man.
Joyce, Key and English have all moved on, and Bridges has no plans to run a leadership model where one person wields as much power as Joyce did.