Grab your popcorn, there's plenty more political drama to come

by Bill Ralston / 02 January, 2019
Simon Bridges. Photo/Getty Images

Simon Bridges. Photo/Getty Images

RelatedArticlesModule - Simon Bridges popcorn

In the lull before political business-as-usual resumes, Bill Ralston gazes into his crystal ball. 

As you bask in the summer sun with the cares of 2018 safely behind you, 2019 stretches serenely ahead with not a cloud on the horizon. But let me spoil that happy picture by donning my fortune-telling goggles to see what cataclysms loom in the running of the country.

First, let’s have a peek in the rear-view mirror to see if there are any monsters from the year gone by that could come leaping back into the picture. Ah, yes, Jami-Lee Ross. Say no more.

Now, unless you are National Party leader Simon Bridges, this should not trouble you. In fact, you might want to get yourself a bowl of popcorn and settle down to watch the psychodrama play out as the independent MP for Botany returns from self-imposed health leave sometime early in the year.

You may recall that last year, Ross imploded in a maelstrom of leaks and accusations against Bridges, was forced out of the National caucus, set up a tent of his own at Parliament and gave his vote to New Zealand First.

You can reasonably assume his return to the House will result in a steady drip, if not a torrent, of further embarrassing leaks and accusations about his former boss. This will serve to further destabilise Bridges’ already wobbly leadership.

With a preferred prime minister ranking of 6% – only one point behind Bridges – in the last Colmar Brunton poll of 2018, Judith Collins strides the corridors of power with a Cheshire Cat grin. My guess is that Ross has been used by a couple of Machiavellian plotters on the Nats’ periphery to pave the way for Collins to oust Bridges and take over the party. National will have to drop several percentage points in the polls before a coup can happen, but I’m picking that Collins has in mind a timeline that could give her the leadership shortly before next Christmas.

The plotters, I understand, also have links to Winston Peters and New Zealand First. A Collins leadership would work to the benefit of both National and Peters who, it is believed, could work with her. It would give the Nats a potential partner in a future government, and be a valuable bargaining chip for Peters in any post-election negotiations with Labour. Once again he would be the kingmaker.

Recharge your popcorn bucket because it does not finish there. The coalition Government’s myriad working groups are due to report back this year and at the beginning of 2020. Perhaps the most important of these is the Tax Working Group, which is likely to recommend a raft of tax changes to reduce inequality, including a capital gains tax. All of the group’s proposals would require the consent of NZ First.

Even if Peters does agree to all the proposed changes, which is very unlikely, Labour will have to take its new tax platform to the electorate in 2020.

Voters, especially the rapidly rising elderly cohort, are likely to be averse to tax increases, especially a capital gains tax on their houses and share funds, their keys to a comfortable retirement.

All of which should guarantee not just an interesting 2019, but a lively 2020 to follow. Slap on the sunscreen and enjoy the tranquillity while it lasts.

This article was first published in the January 5, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about past Māori and Pākehā conflict
106234 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z History

Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about pas…

by Sally Blundell

Calls are growing for us to take a more honest look at our past, particularly the wars over land and power that shaped the country.

Read more
Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the country with one killer line
106291 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z World

Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the coun…

by Bernard Lagan

As Australia’s tourism tsar 13 years ago, Scott Morrison oversaw the rollicking “So where the bloody hell are you?’’ ad campaign.

Read more
What you need to know about knee replacements
105774 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z Health

What you need to know about knee replacements

by Ruth Nichol

Replacement knee joints are giving thousands of Kiwis decades of service, but don’t rush to get one.

Read more
How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miranda Tapsell back to her roots
106072 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Movies

How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miran…

by Russell Baillie

Miranda Tapsell tells Russell Baillie how she came up with Top End Wedding and why its Northern Territory setting means so much.

Read more
The link between cardiovascular health and dementia
105915 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Health

The link between cardiovascular health and dementi…

by Nicky Pellegrino

New research into the brain has found that cardiovascular ill health is linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

Read more
Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned freezing works
106317 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned free…

by John Summers

John Summers wonders if his abiding interest in New Zealand’s abandoned freezing works is actually a long farewell to his grandfather.

Read more
Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlooked moonshot
106359 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlo…

by Peter Griffin

“We bow down to this idea of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos going to Mars, when here in our own country, we had the equivalent."

Read more
Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure
106331 2019-05-24 11:09:35Z Music

Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure

by Elizabeth Kerr

Contemporaries and students are paying tribute to composer John Rimmer and his musical legacy.

Read more