Simon Bridges

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The Honourable
Simon Bridges
MP
Simon-Bridges-Free-Crop.jpg
37th Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
27 February 2018
Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern
DeputyPaula Bennett
Preceded byBill English
12th Leader of the National Party
Assumed office
27 February 2018
DeputyPaula Bennett
Preceded byBill English
10th Leader of the House
In office
2 May 2017 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
DeputyMichael Woodhouse
Preceded byGerry Brownlee
Succeeded byChris Hipkins
Minister of Economic Development
In office
20 December 2016 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded bySteven Joyce
Succeeded byDavid Parker
26th Minister of Transport
In office
6 October 2014 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Bill English
Preceded byGerry Brownlee
Succeeded byPhil Twyford
Minister for Communications
In office
20 December 2016 – 26 October 2017
Prime MinisterBill English
Preceded byAmy Adams
Succeeded byClare Curran (Communications and Digital Media)
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Tauranga
Assumed office
8 December 2008
Preceded byBob Clarkson
Majority11,742 (31.69%)
Personal details
BornSimon Joseph Bridges
(1976-10-12) 12 October 1976 (age 42)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyNational
Spouse(s)Natalie Bridges
RelationsSimon O'Connor (brother-in-law)
Children3
EducationUniversity of Auckland (BA, LLB)
London School of Economics
St Catherine's College, Oxford (BCL)
WebsiteOfficial website

Simon Joseph Bridges (born 12 October 1976) is a New Zealand politician and lawyer who has served as the Leader of the New Zealand National Party and Leader of the Opposition since 27 February 2018.[1][2] He has been the Member of Parliament for Tauranga since the 2008 election. A self-described "compassionate conservative",[3] Bridges has served in several Cabinet portfolios, including Minister of Transport (2014–2017), Minister of Economic Development (2016–2017) and Leader of the House (2017).

He is the first person with Māori ancestry to serve as leader of the National Party, and the first to lead a major party in New Zealand.

Early life[edit]

Simon Bridges was born in October 1976 in Auckland, the youngest of six children. His father of Māori and Pākehā (European) descent was a Baptist minister and his mother of Pākehā (European) descent from Waihi was a primary school teacher.[4] His father Heath's mother, Naku Joseph, was a member of Ngāti Kinohaku, a hapū (subtribe) of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe, and associated with Oparure Marae near Te Kuiti, through which Bridges has family connections to former Labour Cabinet Minister Koro Wētere.[5]

Bridges grew up in Te Atatu, West Auckland, and attended Rutherford College. There, he was taught by future Labour Education Minister Chris Carter, and became head boy of the college.[4][6] He went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in political science and history, and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the University of Auckland.

Legal career[edit]

Bridges began his legal career as a litigation lawyer in a major Auckland law firm, Kensington Swan.[4] He moved to Tauranga in 2001 to take up a position as a Crown prosecutor in the District and High Courts. During this time, he took leave to travel to the United Kingdom to study at the London School of Economics, and later to complete a postgraduate law degree at St Catherine's College, Oxford; he also worked as an intern in the British House of Commons.[4] As a Crown prosecutor in Tauranga, Bridges mainly worked on jury trials.[7] Bridges ended his legal career in 2008, when he was nominated by the National Party to stand for election to the New Zealand Parliament.[8]

Early political career[edit]

Bridges became a member of the Young Nationals in 1992 at the age of 16 and was elected Deputy New Zealand Chair in 1997. He was active in National's West Auckland organisation as a member of MP Brian Neeson's electorate team. Bridges supported Neeson against a challenge by John Key for the National Party candidacy to contest the new seat of Helensville at the 2002 general election.[4] In the following years, Bridges held several senior positions within the party, including sitting on the party's rules committee and serving as chairperson of the Tauranga National Party branch.[8]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2008–2011 49th Tauranga 51 National
2011–2014 50th Tauranga 30 National
2014–2017 51st Tauranga 18 National
2017–present 52nd Tauranga 6 National

Election to Parliament: 2008–2011[edit]

In 2008 the incumbent National MP for Tauranga Bob Clarkson announced his intention not to stand for re-election. Bridges then announced his candidacy for the party's selection to stand in the electorate, and he resigned from his roles within the party. In June 2008 Bridges was selected as the party's candidate for the Tauranga electorate.[9] He was placed at No. 51 on National's party list.[10] Several opinion polls during the campaign suggested Bridges was likely to win the seat by a large margin.[11][12]

Bridges won the seat with a majority of 11,742 votes, against a field of 11 candidates, including New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. As New Zealand First did not meet the 5% party vote threshold nationally, it was reliant on at least one candidate winning an electorate seat in order to be represented in Parliament, and Winston Peters' Tauranga candidacy had been its best chance that year.[13]

Bridges sponsored a Private Member's Bill to increase penalties for animal cruelty, which was drawn from the ballot in early 2010. After passing its first reading, the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill was adopted by the Minister of Agriculture David Carter as a Government Bill and was passed into law.[14]

Minister: 2012–2017[edit]

Bridges speaking to Bryce Edwards at a 2011 election event

Bridges was re-elected in the 2011 election.[15] In April 2012, Prime Minister John Key appointed Bridges as a Minister outside Cabinet, as Minister for Consumer Affairs, Associate Minister of Transport, and Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues.[16] In January 2013 Bridges moved into the Cabinet and became Minister of Labour and Minister of Energy and Resources. He continued to be Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues. He was no longer Minister of Consumer Affairs and Associate Minister of Transport.[17]

Bridges made regular appearances on TVNZ's Breakfast programme as part of the "Young Guns" feature, in which he appeared alongside Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.[18]

In April 2013 Bridges voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in New Zealand.[19]

In October 2013, during a TV interview on Campbell Live, Bridges and presenter John Campbell became engaged in a heated discussion about the benefits and risks of offshore oil drilling.[20]

In April 2014, environmental activist group Greenpeace launched a campaign calling for Bridges to be removed as Energy and Resources Minister over an allegation he approved potential oil and gas exploration in Victoria Forest Park, West Coast, but later said he was unaware of having given the approval.[21][22] Opponents perceived that Bridges had wrongly approved the exploration in a sensitive area, however this was denied by Bridges and Prime Minister John Key.[23]

Bridges, as Transport Minister, opens a cycle route in Palmerston North

A by-election was held in the Northland electorate on 28 March 2015. On 9 March, the National party candidate Mark Osborne announced with Bridges (then Minister of Transport) that National pledged to upgrade 10 one lane bridges in the region at a cost of up to $69 million.[24] Opponents criticised the government for using its advantage inappropriately in the Northland by-election campaign, especially since it was later revealed that Bridges had asked officials for information on the 10 one lane bridges days before the announcement. However, Prime Minister John Key defended the request on the grounds that Bridges had sought factual information rather than policy advice, which is permitted under the Cabinet Manual rules.[25]

Following the resignation of Prime Minister John Key on 5 December 2016, Bridges announced his candidacy for the Deputy Leadership of the National Party and consequent Deputy Prime Ministership. He withdrew from the election process when it became clear Paula Bennett had the numbers to win.[26]

New Prime Minister Bill English made changes to the Cabinet effective 20 December 2016, and Bridges became Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Communications, and Associate Minister of Finance. He retained his role as Minister of Transport and was no longer Minister of Energy and Resources, and Associate Minister of Justice, and Climate Change Issues.[17]

Opposition: 2017–present[edit]

Simon Bridges was re-elected in the 2017 election.[15] Following the defeat of the National government, Bridges was no longer a minister, but was appointed Shadow Leader of the House, and National spokesperson for the portfolios for both Economic and Regional Development, and Immigration.[27]

In February 2018, Bill English resigned as Leader of the New Zealand National Party, and therefore Leader of the Opposition, paving way for a leadership election.[28] The day after English's resignation, Bridges announced his candidacy in a press conference, to run for the leadership of the National Party.[29] On 27 February 2018, he was elected as National Party leader.[1] He is the first person with Māori ancestry to serve as leader of the National Party.[30]

MP expenses saga[edit]

On 13 August 2018, Newshub reported that Bridges has spent $113,000 in taxpayer money on limousines and hotels between April to June 2018. (His expenses were higher than normal because he was travelling around New Zealand on a 'getting to know Simon' road show.) Information on Bridges' spending emerged as a result of a leak of MPs' expenses.[31][32] In response, the National Party demanded an independent inquiry into the source of the leak. Bridges publicly stated that he was "supremely confident" that his MPs were not behind the leak.[33] On 15 August, Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard launched an independent inquiry into who had leaked information about Bridges' expenses.[34]

On 24 August 2018, RNZ reported that a person claiming to be the National Party leaker had sent separate anonymous text messages to Bridges and Speaker of the House Mallard calling for the inquiry into the leaking of Bridges' expenses to be called off. The author of the text alleged that they had suffered from mental health problems and claimed that the publicity would endanger their health and life.[35] In response, Mallard subsequently called off the inquiry, prompting criticism from both Bridges and Shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee, who demanded that the investigation into the identity of the leaker continue.[36][37] Bridges claimed that the New Zealand Police were reportedly aware of the leaker's identity.[38]

On 15 October 2018, Bridges announced at a press conference that National MP Jami-Lee Ross had been identified as the one who had leaked his expenses. Bridges cited a PwC report which strongly suggested that Ross had been the leaker, based on text messages sent to a Radio New Zealand reporter, the Speaker of the House, and a police officer in the Botany electorate during the leak. Bridges also rejected claims made by Ross in a series of tweets alleging that Bridges had been trying to pin the blame on him for questioning his leadership decisions. Bridges also indicated that National would seek disciplinary action against Ross.[39][40]

On 16 October 2018, Ross alleged that Bridges had violated election law several times, including accepting an illegal NZ$100,000 donation in May 2018 from Chinese businessman Yikun Zhang, which he claimed that Bridges had told him to cover up. In addition, Ross alleged that Bridges and Deputy Leader Paula Bennett had tried to smear him with allegations that he had sexually harassed several women. Bridges publicly denied Ross' allegations as baseless and said it was a matter for the police. That same day, the National Party caucus voted to expel Ross for disloyalty. Ross intends to stay in parliament as an independent MP.[41][42]

Personal life[edit]

Bridges met his future wife Natalie, a British-born public relations consultant, while she was studying at the University of Oxford.[43][44] The couple have two sons, born in 2012 and 2014,[45][46] and a daughter, born in 2017.[47] The family live in Matua, Tauranga.[48] As of 2008 he attended Holy Trinity Tauranga, an Anglican church.[4]

Bridges has a personal superannuation scheme, like 241 other New Zealanders (mainly MPs).[49]

Bridges' sister, Rachel Trimble, married National MP Simon O'Connor in December 2016.[50]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bracewell-Worrall, Anna (27 February 2018). "Live updates: National chooses Simon Bridges". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Simon Bridges confirmed as new National leader, Paula Bennett remains deputy". TVNZ. 27 February 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  3. ^ Edwards, Bryce (15 February 2018). "Political Roundup: Why Simon Bridges is probably National's next leader". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Dudding, Adam (25 September 2008). "Tauranga: you are now entering Winston country". Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 20 October 2008.
  5. ^ Dickson, Sandra (18 December 2008). "Simon and Natalie – JFK and Jackie of New Zealand politics". NewsWire.co.nz. Whitireia Journalism School. Retrieved 16 February 2018. This source misspelt Ngāti Kinohaku as Ngati Kanohaku.
  6. ^ Forbes, Stephen (22 August 2002). "Former Rutherford Head Boy to speak". Western Leader. p. 14. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  7. ^ National Party biography: Simon Bridges. Retrieved on 20 November 2008.
  8. ^ a b Dominion Post and NZPA (9 May 2008). "No Clarkson vs Peters battle in Tauranga". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  9. ^ "Stage set for tussle in Tauranga". ONE News. 14 June 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  10. ^ Humer, Tim (9 November 2008). "Newcomers on the stage and a veteran Act". Sunday Star Times.
  11. ^ "Peters' popularity wanes in latest poll". ONE News. 10 August 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  12. ^ NZPA (2 November 2008). "Poll shows Winston Peters' chances in Tauranga near hopeless". 3 News. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  13. ^ "Official Count Results – Tauranga". New Zealand Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  14. ^ Tait, Maggie (2 February 2010). "Govt to back greater penalties for animal cruelty". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  15. ^ a b "Official Count Results – Tauranga". Chief Electoral Office. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  16. ^ "Bridges becomes minister, Tremain enters Cabinet". Television New Zealand. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Hon Simon Bridges". New Zealand Parliament.
  18. ^ "TVNZ Search Results". TVNZ.
  19. ^ "Gay marriage: How MPs voted". NZ Herald. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  20. ^ "Bridges, TV's Campbell explode into slanging match". Bay of Plenty Times. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Greenpeace launches campaign for Simon Bridges to be sacked". NZ Herald. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  22. ^ "Opinion: Is Simon Bridges asleep on the job?". Newshub. 20 March 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  23. ^ @isaac_davison, Isaac Davison Political reporter, NZ Herald isaac davison@nzherald co nz (9 April 2014). "PM defends new oil and gas exploration permits" – via www.nzherald.co.nz.
  24. ^ "National to replace 10 single lane bridges in Northland - Scoop News". www.scoop.co.nz.
  25. ^ "John Key backs Simon Bridges over Northland requests". Stuff.co.nz. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  26. ^ "Paula Bennett has won the battle for deputy Prime Minister and will team up with Bill English". Stuff.
  27. ^ "National unveils strong Opposition team". Scoop.co.nz. 2 November 2017. Archived from the original on 2 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  28. ^ "Bill English announces retirement from Parliament". Scoop News. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  29. ^ "Bridges joining Collins in leadership contest". RNZ National. 14 February 2018.
  30. ^ Lynch, Jenna (27 February 2018). "Māori leaders 'proud' of new National leader Simon Bridges". Newshub. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  31. ^ O'Brien, Tova (13 August 2018). "Simon Bridges' roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels". Newshub. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  32. ^ "MPs' spending expenses revealed". Radio New Zealand. 16 August 2018. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  33. ^ Kirk, Stacey (14 August 2018). "National demands independent probe into Simon Bridges travel expenses leak". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  34. ^ Bramwell, Chris (15 August 2018). "Inquiry launched into leak on Simon Bridges' expenses". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  35. ^ Moir, Jo (24 August 2018). "Exclusive: Text plea to call off Bridges expense leak inquiry". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  36. ^ "Speaker calls off Bridges expenses inquiry". Radio New Zealand. 24 August 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  37. ^ Bennett, Lucy (24 August 2018). "Speaker Trevor Mallard 'obfuscating' on Simon Bridges leak inquiry, Gerry Brownlee says". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  38. ^ "Speaker abandons inquiry to reveal the leaker of Simon Bridges' expenses, signals it's a National Party person". 1 News. 24 August 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  39. ^ Bennett, Lucy; Walls, Jason (15 October 2018). "National MP Jami-Lee Ross identified as Simon Bridges' expenses leaker". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  40. ^ Watkins, Tracy (15 October 2018). "National Party leader Simon Bridges points finger at Jami-Lee Ross in expenses leak inquiry". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  41. ^ "Jami-Lee Ross makes u-turn decision on resignation". Maori Telivision. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  42. ^ "National MP Jami-Lee Ross admits to affairs with two women, vows to stay in Parliament". NZ Herald. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  43. ^ "Tauranga: you are now entering Winston country". 20 September 2008 – via Stuff.co.nz.
  44. ^ Rowan, Juliet (27 February 2018). "Natalie Bridges: The woman behind the new National leader". The New Zealand Herald.
  45. ^ Amy McGillivray (19 March 2014). "Simon Bridges welcomes second baby into family". Bay of Plenty Times.
  46. ^ McGillivray, Amy (19 March 2014). "Simon Bridges welcomes second baby into family". The New Zealand Herald.
  47. ^ Macfarlane, Kristin (9 December 2017). "Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and wife Natalie welcome new daughter". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  48. ^ Ruth Keber, Julia Proverbs (11 March 2014). "Matua most sought after suburb in city". Bay of Plenty Times.
  49. ^ "Private super schemes-are MPs bridges to wealth". Stuff (Fairfax). 4 March 2018.
  50. ^ Moir, Jo (10 December 2016). "Paula Bennett has won the battle for deputy Prime Minister and will team up with Bill English". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 10 December 2016.

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Bob Clarkson
Member of Parliament
for Tauranga

2008–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Gerry Brownlee
Minister of Transport
2014–2017
Succeeded by
Phil Twyford
Leader of the House
2017
Succeeded by
Chris Hipkins
Preceded by
Bill English
Leader of the Opposition
2018–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill English
Leader of the National Party
2018–present
Incumbent