Simon: ‘Leadership is my Plan

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has his sights set firmly on the National Party leadership.

It’s been a big week in politics, with National Party MPs putting their hands up to take over the reins from Bill English, who has resigned and will be leaving parliament.

One man who wants the top job in the National Party is Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, who announced his intention to run on Wednesday.

“I feel I have good support from my colleagues, although that’s not to say it’s in the bag,” he says.

“We’ve got two weeks to go, and some people are undecided. But I have the support to make this worth doing.

“I’ll be talking to all of my 56 colleagues in caucus. I don’t take anyone’s support for granted, regardless of where their electorate is or where they’re based.”

He’s spoken highly of his rivals for the leadership, but says he hasn’t considered settling for deputy if one of them wins.

“I’m in it for the leadership. It’s my Plan A, and I haven’t considered any sort of Plan B.”

He describes himself as a conservative on some issues, but believes his attitude to the environment is progressive.

“We have great values in the National Party,” he says, “but they need to evolve and move with the times. I have some views on what that means policy-wise, but it’s premature to talk about that while I’m still discussing these matters with my colleagues.”

In regards to the thorny issue of New Zealand First – who were kingmakers in 2017, and helped usher National out of power – Simon wouldn’t say whether he would seek reconciliation with the centrist party.

“That’s not our focus,” says Simon. “We’re interested in holding the government to account, while presenting fresh ideas from National so people can see we are ready to govern again in 2020.”

If he does become leader, Simon says he has no plans to move his young family down to Wellington. Nor does he think it would affect his duties as an electorate MP.

“I think if anything, it will help, as it shines the spotlight on Tauranga.”

He says it’s been an honour to work with outgoing leader Bill English.

“He has spent his adult life in exemplary service to the National Party, government and New Zealand. He was a policy heavyweight, but also a tremendous wit. It’s sad to see him go but I wish him, Mary and his whanau every happiness and success in the future.”