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Someone spare a thought for Simon

It can't be easy for Simon Bridges to have a three-time election-winning knight of the realm turn up to your party conference when you’re languishing at margin-of-error percent in the preferred PM polls. James Elliott does his news of the week. 

Last weekend the National Party had their annual conference in Christchurch. Simon Bridges was there. And so was Sir John Key. They both support the same political party but that’s about all they have in common these days.  Even their Kiwi-as accents are quite different. When John Key speaks he drops out as many vowels as possible and when Simon Bridges speaks he picks up those discarded vowels and adds them to words that really don’t need them.

It can’t be easy being Bridges and having a three-time election-winning knight of the realm turn up to your party conference when you’re languishing at margin-of-error percent in the preferred Prime Minister polls. It must be like being in a new relationship and going to a party where your new partner’s ex turns up and it’s obvious that everyone still adores the ex, and you not so much. And you can tell that everyone’s remembering what a great couple they were, how good things were when they were together and whether there’s any chance of getting them back together again.

So there was some cunning logic in Bridges introducing a new National Party slogan that wasn’t about him, or indeed anyone else in National’s ranks. “Our bottom line is you” is the new National slogan, and also what Bridges was told when he asked someone to explain the most recent chart of those pesky preferred Prime Minister polls.        

You can tell it’s a good slogan when it has multiple uses and anyone can take ownership of it. I can use it, you can use it, and someone from Papakura who’s fourth in National’s rankings and who recently lost their infrastructure portfolio can definitely use it.       

Starting any comment on any subject with a gratuitous swing at Nick Smith is a popular political pastime so we can’t begrudge him that.

Bridges was somewhat less successful with his attempt to launch another slogan during the week. He labelled Jacinda Ardern a “part-time Prime Minister” for taking a trip to Tokelau while Parliament was sitting, instead of doing so during the recent Parliamentary recess. Grant Roberston leapt to the PM’s defence saying that Bridges’ comments were disrespectful towards Tokelau and also had sexist overtones. This caused Bridges to double-down saying “it’s more than part-time Prime Minister, it’s a part-time Government”. He also advised Robertson to stop being “so sensitive and defensive”. Robertson may have replied to that. I don’t know. By that point I was losing focus and some of my will to live.

This week a lot of our politicians were happy to talk about anything, literally anything, other than the Ihumātao dispute. That reluctance included the PM, it being reported from Tokelau that journalists were threatened with restricted access to her if they persisted with questions about Ihumātao. That stand off was remedied and Ardern responded to questions saying she wasn’t worried about Ihumātao protests escalating. Then she added "Regardless of what's happening domestically or locally we have a great team that pick up the reigns when offshore" which was less cover of Vogue material and more just vague cover.

As nature abhors a vacuum so does the news cycle. So enter the Minister for Regional Economic Development, Minister of Forestry, self-appointed "megaphone advocate” of the Government's $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, and dubious headline generator, Shane Geoffery Jones. He had something to say about Ihumātao. He started off with a gratuitous swing at former housing minister Nick Smith, which is fair enough. Starting any comment on any subject with a gratuitous swing at Nick Smith is a popular political pastime so we can’t begrudge him that. So far so good, but he veered somewhat off course with his comment on the protest leadership as reported in Waatea News:

I don’t know what Shane Jones’ views on speedos are and I don’t want to know what they are. I really don’t. In fact I’m regretting having even put them together in the same sentence.

“I’ve got zero tolerance when I saw some of the personalities out there dressed up in yoga pants”.

I don’t know why Shane Jones has zero tolerance for yoga pants and I had a difficult time deciding whether that’s a subject I wanted to know a lot more about, or a lot less about. In the end I opted for asking Google “is it ok to wear yoga pants in public?”. My research showed that Jones is not the only politician with an anti yoga pants stance. In 2015 Montana State Representative for District 92, David Moore, a Republican because of course he was, introduced an Indecency Bill to the Montana House of Representatives seeking to ban yoga pants in public. To be fair to Moore he also wanted speedos in public banned which doesn’t seem totally unreasonable given that Montana is the largest landlocked state in the US and a very long way from the beach.     

I don’t know what Shane Jones’ views on speedos are and I don’t want to know what they are. I really don’t. In fact I’m regretting having even put them together in the same sentence. But I reckon Jones shouldn’t be so dismissive of yoga pants and yoga practice. On any given day up and down the country there are probably hundreds if not thousands of yoga devotees practising their tree poses. Jones should consider including them in the tally of the billion trees the government has promised by 2028 because he’s going to need all the help he can get achieving that bottom line.                          

Have a peaceful weekend.

PS – David Moore’s Indecency Bill didn’t pass and he’s no longer a Montana State Representative.

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