Politics

Cloud over National leadership after reshuffle

Two National MPs have announced their retirement, causing a reshuffle as the cloud hanging over Simon Bridges' leadership refuses to dissipate.

National MP Paul Goldsmith will face up against the Government on finance and infrastructure issues, following the news that both Amy Adams and Alastair Scott will step down at the next election.

Goldsmith had held the economic and regional development portfolios where he had scored some hits on Regional Development Minister Shane Jones. He was also transport spokesman.

Todd McClay and Chris Bishop will take Goldsmith's old development portfolio which is now split in two. Bishop is regional development and transport spokesman and has leapt 18 spots in the party's rankings, while McClay takes economic development.

National's Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott has also announced he will retire at the election, after two terms in the electorate seat. His forestry portfolio will be taken by Todd Muller. 

Other changes include Gerry Brownlee moving into the foreign affairs role, Brett Hudson moving to police and Tim Macindoe becoming shadow Attorney-General. 

Maggie Barry will move into the disability issues portfolio, while Stuart Smith will become immigration spokesman.

Speaking to media about the reshuffle and the retirements, National leader Simon Bridges denied the departures of Adams and Scott were a sign that MPs lacked confidence in his leadership, instead arguing it showed the depth of ability within his caucus.

"We are the natural party for talent, and this reshuffle shows that."

Bridges denied that taking infrastructure from Judith Collins - a long-rumoured contender to depose him as National leader - and giving it to Goldsmith was a demotion, saying it made sense to combine the finance and infrastructure portfolios.

Adams, Scott step down

National's reshuffle was precipitated by the announcement that Adams would step down from politics next year. Her announcement was swiftly followed by Scott's own resignation.

Adams will retire at the 2020 election and has decided to step down from her roles as finance spokeswoman and shadow Attorney-General.

The Selwyn MP, who has held the electorate since 2008, said she had been “incredibly privileged” to serve in the electorate and as a member of National's caucus for almost 12 years.

“Making the decision to step away from politics has not been an easy one but it is the right time for me and my family and I’m looking forward to whatever the future holds."

On Tuesday, Adams said she was tired and wanted to reconnect with her family.

“This is the decision about, ultimately, the life I want. And the fact remains, I want my life back.

“I’ve given it everything I’ve got… it’s been nearly 30 years working at this pace, and I’m tired.”

Adams said Bridges had promised her she would be finance minister if National won power at the next election. However, she did not have the energy to do the job for another three years.

“The day I didn’t think I could give it 100 percent of my passion, it was time to go.”

“I heard someone say once [that] the most important thing in public service is knowing when to go, and for me that’s now. I don’t want to become the bitter and slightly half-hearted person who’s still hanging around.”

Adams was stepping down from her finance role now, to allow another National MP the chance to familiarise themselves with the portfolio ahead of next year’s campaign.

The caucus was told of Adams’ departure on Tuesday morning in an emotional announcement, but the MP said she had been discussing her plans with Bridges and her family for a while.

“In public service, the biggest thing is knowing when it’s time to leave…I’m not really a believer in lifetime politicians and a lifetime in politics,” she said.

“I heard someone say once [that] the most important thing in public service is knowing when to go, and for me that’s now. I don’t want to become the bitter and slightly half-hearted person who’s still hanging around.”

Adams listed her biggest achievements as the introduction of national environmental reporting standards, the expungement of homosexual convictions, and the rollout of broadband and fibre.

Her regrets included not being able to continue work on family and sexual violence prevention and support – a work programme adopted by the current government – and not being able to continue with National’s social investment strategy.

Adams’ departure follows an unsuccessful tilt at the National leadership last year, when Bill English retired following the party's failure to form a government in the wake of the 2017 election.

Simon Bridges continues to come under pressure as his personal popularity stays in the basement in polling. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

Her retirement comes as National leader Simon Bridges continues to slip in popularity in the polls.

Bridges' poor performance has led to speculation around whether Judith Collins – an obvious contender and strong performer - would be gunning for the top job.

Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon's decision to leave the airline, and his open contemplation of a career in politics, has also led to whispers about what role he could hold within the party. Bridges said he had a conversation with Luxon last week, following the news of his departure from the national carrier.

However, Adams said she had "every confidence" in National's performance under Bridges and the party's electoral prospects.

Scott has also announced he will retire at the election, after two term in the Wairarapa seat.

Scott said he was confident National would win the next election, and believed he had left the seat in good shape for a successor.

Bridges will announce a caucus reshuffle on Tuesday afternoon, following the pair's announcements.

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