New Zealand opposition leadership change reflects tensions over social unrest and drive to war
7 March 2018
New Zealand’s opposition National Party elected a new leader, Simon Bridges, on February 27, to replace Bill English, who announced his retirement from politics on February 13.
It was the conservative party’s second leadership change in less than two years, indicating considerable perplexity and turmoil within the party—especially over how to deal with rising working class anger over falling living standards, and the global drive toward economic nationalism and trade war.
Former National Party Prime Minister John Key resigned suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2016, after eight years in office, giving no explanation apart from wanting to spend more time with his family. His replacement, English, similarly declared his own resignation was “a purely personal decision.”
After the National Party failed to form a government following the September 2017 election, English gave no indication he would step down. He trumpeted the fact that National secured more votes than any other party, albeit not enough to govern alone. In January, English reportedly dismissed rumours of his impending resignation as “gossip.”
There are undoubtedly divisions and recriminations within the National Party over its failure to form a government. After the September 23 poll, the right-wing nationalist New Zealand First Party, which received only 7.5 percent of the vote, negotiated with National and the Labour Party for a month and then announced it would form a coalition government with Labour and the Greens, ending nine years of National Party rule.
Significantly, NZ First leader Winston Peters announced his decision after US ambassador Scott Brown made a series…