Christopher Luxon; Getty Images
Opinion

Tova: Luxon's recent missteps show signs he wasn't quite ready for National's top job

Perhaps Christopher Luxon should have taken Sir John Key’s advice. 

Another two years quietly back-benching away, getting his electorate chops up and better learning the machinations of politics and policy, and Christopher Luxon would have built that bit more resilience, preparedness, and agility into his brand of leadership. 

Sir John had long urged Luxon to wait until after the 2023 election. Putting money on fair chances that National would lose, Luxon would be anointed the leadership and after nine long years of Labour, the 2026 electorate would be so ready for change and he would be so ready to rise to the role of Prime Minister, his chance of a win would be a cinch.  

To make the plan even more tantalising was the gift presented by Simon Bridges. 

A man who had the leadership experience had nothing to lose and who could bridge the gap between Judith Collins’ self-implosion and come what may election night 2024. 

But instead, Luxon, the lover of leadership, couldn't resist. 

He stuck it to Bridges, did the numbers, played the game, and won the leadership. 

Now after a string of missteps and miscommunication you gotta wonder, did he go too soon? Does Christopher Luxon lack the political experience to pull this off and become Prime Minister?

The last couple of weeks has been gaffe city for Luxon. Let’s take a quick look back….. 

On diversity, talking up a big game about the need for Maori voices in National. 

And yet Today FM understands all the possible by-election candidates to replace Simon Bridges in Tauranga are pakeha men, leaving National with just two Maori MPs in its caucus of 33

Then there was the failure to sell National’s planned scrapping of the new top tax bracket for people who earn over $180k.

It’s almost sounding like National might be rethinking ditching the $180k bracket. 

It wouldn’t be Luxon’s only recent policy u-turn…..

The review into mega-churches - which he agreed to on this show then swiftly reneged on - musing over cancelling Labour Day, which he also quickly thought better of, the public transport gaffe - saying no to Government subsidies - before realising that actually National supports some subsidies - always has -  then on the Maori Health Authority, well I’ve lost track of whether it’s being cut under National or not. 

Sometimes Luxon even flip-flops within seconds - as he did yesterday on our show.

He was also forced to concede on TVNZ's  Q and A that his tax cuts are inflationary. 

So National’s tax cuts would be exactly the same - exactly as inflationary - as all that wild spending he’s been accusing the government of. Awkward. That kind of takes the whip out of his hand when it comes to going Grant Robertson on inflation. 

Not helped by the fact he struggled to pinpoint exactly which wasteful spending by the government has led to 6.9 percent inflation. 

When I asked him yonks ago to describe himself in one word - after failing his first attempt calling himself a handsome bald man - Chris Luxon landed on ‘strategic’ as the one word to describe himself. 

Of course, Luxon is still vastly competent - he ran an airline don’t you know - and there is plenty of time to school up before the election and learn from the hard-won lessons of the last couple of weeks, but Luxon has let his inexperience show - it’s been on full display and with PM away overseas it’s really been given space to shine. 

And it has begged the question was Luxon’s original strategy to wait until after the 2023 election was the smarter plan. 

Because if he loses next year, he’s failed after two years on the tools and it’s unlikely his caucus will forgive him another crack for 2026.