Simon Bridges urges party to fight harder in final speech

Former National Party leader Simon Bridges used his final speech to denounce ‘timid’ politics, saying New Zealand deserved a vigorous debate of ideas – not just poll-driven ‘skills’ battles .

Bridges is retiring after a 14-year political career that saw him win one leadership contest and lose three others.

Simon Bridges with his silver tray - a gift given to outgoing National MPs.


Simon Bridges with his silver tray – a gift given to outgoing National MPs.

He served as leader of the National Party between 2018 and 2020 before being ousted by Todd Muller and attempted to return to the post in December 2021, stepping down shortly after losing to Christopher Luxon.

Bridges used the speech to urge MPs to be bold and not just follow the polls, saying “timid” oppositions would also end up governing timidly.

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“I’m making this plea, please, please let’s not be so poll and focus group oriented. They will make you nice, beige and shy. In short, tasteless,” Bridges said.

“Let’s have less small targets, short-term political tactics and broader, long-term strategies, please. Big battles of daring ideas won’t hurt us.

“And the alternative, as we’re seeing in Australia right now, is competitions run purely on personality and ‘skill’ and that’s really depressing”

“Play your politics in a timid opposition and you will necessarily govern as timidly – ​​be bold.

Simon Bridges on his last day in Parliament.


Simon Bridges on his last day in Parliament.

Bridges has generally taken conservative positions during his career, both fiscally and socially. He voted against gay marriage and the decriminalization of abortion.

He has often been challenged by the more liberal wing of the National Party, including those who orchestrated his downfall – Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis, who are now very close to leader Christopher Luxon.

Speaking directly to his party and the “senior” MPs within it, Bridges said it was crucial that National remained a broad church.

“As for the National Party of which I will be a member for 30 years this year, caucus colleagues – the senior ones – would be wise to remember one very important thing. As a party that believes it represents our whole nation, as is often said, the National is and should be a very broad church of urban, provincial and rural, liberal, centrist and conservative.

“We have to be scrupulous to allow all these opinions to pass without too much control, let alone censorship and seek to maintain the balance, the peace, between all these values ​​and interests without letting one dominate the other.”

Simon Bridges over the years.


Simon Bridges over the years.

Bridges also suggested that Parliament needed to gain a little more power over governments, admitting that this was a cause National had not pursued in government itself.

“The tragedy is that while I’m in government, most of them, including me, don’t reform this place because it serves our interests at the time. That was true for the last national government and, respectfully, that’s probably the case for this one as well,” Bridges said.

He suggested that select committees be strengthened and that a secret ballot for the president be introduced.

Bridges pushed back on his perceived supremacy of “experts” and how they were treated by the press gallery.

“The job of politicians – and journalists, I might add – is not to slavishly follow the experts. It is an abdication of our responsibility as elected officials, elected to weigh in and, as I said, bring our values ​​and principles to the issue at hand,” Bridges said.

“Nothing in politics and government comes down to ‘the science says so’. There are also always broader social, economic and normative implications that we have a duty to have an opinion on and decide on.

He also suggested that his brand of more conservative policies might come back into fashion at some point.

“I accept as a conservative and belief politician, I’m a bit out of favor these days. A young mist perhaps. But politics comes and goes, and like other things, maybe views like mine will come back in fashion someday.

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