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This article titled “New Zealand: National party elects Maori leader and deputy to take on Jacindamania” was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 27th February 2018 02.39 UTC
New Zealand’s opposition National party has elected Simon Bridges as its first ever Maori leader, who will be supported by a Maori deputy, Paula Bennett.
Bridges, 41, ran a campaign of generational change to beat four other contenders to lead the party, after former prime minister Bill English resigned from politics two weeks ago.
Bridges was first elected to parliament in 2008, the same year as prime minister Jacinda Ardern, and held the labour, energy, economic development and transport portfolios during the party’s decade in power.
“New Zealanders deserve better than a government that is merely muddling along. My focus is on ensuring New Zealand continues to be a place of great opportunities and aspiration for everyone,” said Bridges in his first press conference as leader.
“This government, I believe quite firmly, takes our economy for granted, and New Zealanders know that after a government like this, it is National – that as the best economic managers – has to pick up the pieces. Fine words are fine, but it’s actions that count. More reviews and working groups won’t get us anywhere.”
The former litigation lawyer and crown prosecutor met his wife, Natalie, at Oxford University in Britain. They have three young children.
Bridges has called himself a “compassionate conservative” and has been described as “genial and relaxed” by political commentator Bryce Edwards and a “mongrel beneath the Brylcream” by Spinoff editor Toby Manhire.
Bridges’ youth, occasional wit and unflappable buoyancy made him the clear front-runner for the leadership race. His energy marks a change from former National leader English, who was widely regarded as boring and lacking the X-factor that helped Labour’s Ardern win the September election.
Bridges described himself as a proud Maori man and “westie” (hailing from West Auckland). Under his leadership the National party would be “fresh”, “modern” and “energized”, he said, and build on the success of former prime minister John Key, who led the party during its almost 10 years in power.
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