Congratulations to Simon Bridges on becoming the new Leader of the National Party. In taking on the role, Bridges also becomes the first Māori to lead either major party in New Zealand, a significant milestone in New Zealand's history that's worth celebrating regardless of where your political loyalties lie.
Throughout the leadership campaign Bridges has talked about the need to review and renew National's approach going into the 2020 election, both from strategic and policy perspectives.
I've been vocal about the importance of the National Party doing this, as it can't be trying to re-litigate the 2017 election when 2020 rolls around. It needs to celebrate the wins from the Key/English era, but acknowledge the shortcomings and come up with a bold policy vision to address the issues that New Zealand faces. Bridges own approach seems to echo this, with him saying in his first press conference as leader that he'll look to build on the good economic policies of the past-National Government, but address shortcomings in other areas.
Since going into opposition Bridges has proven to be a thorn in the Government's side. Winning a battle of Select Committee places by catching the Government out over whether it had the numbers to elect Trevor Mallard Speaker, on the opening day of Parliament, is an example of this. Likewise, Bridges' background as a Crown prosecutor, and having sparred with both Winston Peters in Tauranga, and Jacinda Ardern on national television, means he has form going toe-to-toe with the two central figures of the new Government.
Of course being in Opposition is more than just winning Beltway battles. As Bridges himself has alluded to, National has to both hold the Government account, but also look and act like a Government-in-waiting itself. It's a hard balance to achieve, and much of what Bridges will do over the next week ahead of National's Shadow Cabinet reshuffle will be ensuring that he gets that balance right.
I look forward to seeing how Simon Bridges takes National forward over the coming weeks.