Opinion

Tova: Election predictions - Scenario No.1: What if the National Party loses

Although Christopher Luxon’s had a bit of a mare over the last couple of weeks the Prime Minister won’t be popping the bolli. 

Although the polls haven’t yet solidified for a National-led coalition, they are collectively telling us one thing. She’s gonna be tight.

And that means one other thing is certain. Come September/October next year, the political career of either Jacinda Ardern or Christopher Luxon is over. 

That’s huge. It’s a big deal when Prime Ministers or Prime Ministers in waiting fold. Simon Bridges finishing up this week, case in point.

Every good leader has a good long term succession plan so who then is best primed to take over the leadership of the country’s two biggest political parties. 

Today, I’ll run through scenario number one, National loses Luxon is out - this is what the polls are predicting now. Tomorrow, I’ll run through scenario number two, Labour loses, Ardern is goneski. 

Nicola Willis

As his number two and Finance Spokeswoman Nicola Willis is the literal next in line. She knows it, she wants it and I suspect part of her willingness to play so nice with Luxon, despite their conflicting social values, is that she’s playing a longer game with a far bigger prize in sight. 

Willis will want to go up against Ardern - she sees her as an equal and it would make for a fascinating campaign 2026 if Ardern opted to go for a Hollyoake and attempt a fourth term. Two smart, similarly aged, progressive, political rather than ideological, career politicians, who are also both women leaders that young women look up to. 

Willis proved herself in her former housing portfolio as a good digger, clear communicator who knew how to get the most out of a political hit, she’s tenacious and hardworking. That said sometimes she would miss the mark or the angle and better-informed journalists like Jenna Lynch and Henry Cooke would do a better job than she would on stories she’d uncovered. 

She’s yet to prove herself in the same way in finance and this should be a treasure trove of ammunition to destroy the government’s record with. There is just so much low hanging fruit. 

She also takes herself a bit too seriously. She’s a bit too earnest and haughty. Yet more traits she shares with Jacinda Ardern. 

I rate Nicola Willis’s chances of taking over from Luxon at about 50%. 

 

Chris Bishop 

Willis’ chances would have been higher if it weren’t for Chris Bishop.

And this is a fun one because Bish and Willis are political besties and partners in crime. They’re equally strategic and equally ambitious - and to be clear that is very very very ambitious. 

Both Bishop and Willis were considered by many in the caucus as toxic untouchables after their role in the Muller coup but both have also worked hard for and earned their redemption. 

I would argue that Bishop is the National Party’s stand out performer. His work on the covid response has been tireless, constructive and prescient. He’s a champion for real people and actually listens to them - partly because therein lies political opportunity. 

He’s socially progressive which got him into a bit of trouble when he opposed his former leader’s view on banning gay conversion therapy - but I rated that he was willing to have the courage of his convictions at least privately. I would rate him higher if he were more fearless when it comes to speaking up for what he believes in when it doesn’t align with the party line - co-governance would be a good one for him to be a bit more honest about. 

He’s less earnest and therefore seems more honest than Willis. He’s a bit goofy but that adds to his likeability and has a good laugh which goes a long way. 

I rate Bishop’s chances of taking over the leadership at 50% too. Someone will have to volunteer for the deputy leadership and it will be a hard sell for them both. 

 

Mark Mitchell 

Both Bishop and Willis represent the same faction in the caucus which is where Mark Mitchell comes in. 

Formerly of team Bridges, he was once upon a time leadership contender himself. 

If the caucus is left ragged like it was after the last election, having a Mitchell on the leadership ticket makes sense in terms of caucus unity. Paul Goldsmith is the other option here but frankly, he’s not yet climbed out of his fiscal hole of 2021. 

Mitch is infinitely likeable, a pretty honest broker and appeals to the kiwi barbecue blokey vote. His likeability and advocacy means he has good contacts and ethos in the portfolios he represents - police case in point. Some in the party don’t think he’s multi-faceted or quite smart enough for the leadership. 

I rate Mark Mitchell’s chance of taking over the leadership at 15%.

Shane Reti 

Judith Collins’ former deputy did not endear himself to voters in that role. Standing at her shoulder wantonly agreeing with everything the leader said, literally. His constraint refrain to begin every sentence was, “I agree with the leader” even when he patently did not. He’s smart, he’s a doctor, he cares and he’s studious but he lacks the political backbone for the leadership. 

I rate his chance of leadership - barring a custodial role like he held post-Collins pre-Luxon - at 6.5%

Erica Stanford 

It’s unlikely but I’m chucking her in here cause I rate her. She’s been a bit quiet of late but her work during the pandemic on immigration was second to none. A bit like Mark Mitchell some of her colleagues don’t think she has the all-rounder skills needed for the leadership. 

Not this time but one to watch. Stanford gets a 7.3% chance. 

Tune in to Tova on Today FM on Tuesday as she reveals scenario number two, Labour loses, Ardern is goneski.