National hopes Simon Bridges will broaden its appeal to other young, Māori former Cabinet ministers

In 2018, identity politics is everything, as National scrambles to appeal to former head boys with a keen interest in electric vehicles.

In 2018, identity politics is everything, as National scrambles to appeal to former head boys with a keen interest in electric vehicles.

In its embrace of what has come to be known as a “generational shift,” the opposition National Party hopes that its election of Simon Bridges as leader will help attract voters who, like Bridges, are young, Māori and former Cabinet ministers with wide experience across a range of portfolios.

“I hope young Māori former Cabinet ministers are proud of me,” said Bridges, when asked about his heritage at his first press conference on Tuesday, “that the National Party has elected its first young, Māori former Cabinet minister with a background in law.

“I hope young, Māori former Cabinet ministers with a background in law and a fear of static electricity – who traditionally have been with NZ First at times, Labour – will give us a second look and think about us and what we mean: the opportunities that we present for young, Māori former Cabinet ministers with a background in law, a fear of static electricity and own a Peugeot.”

Bridges said he believed Māoridom was changing.

“I think clearly we are seeing young Māori former Cabinet ministers with a background in law, a fear of static electricity, who own a Peugeot, and don’t consider their Māoridom to be a prominent part of their background succeed in business, both small and large, and they are as aspirational as every other New Zealander.”

No National MP would go on record to make a prediction, but some were cautiously optimistic Bridges would make “significant inroads” with the people he was speaking to in that answer.

University of Otago politics lecturer and political commentator, Bryce Edwards, said that while National’s choice wasn’t driven by identity politics, the chance to appeal to young, Māori former Cabinet ministers with a background in law, a fear of static electricity, who own a Peugeot, don’t consider their Māoridom to be a prominent part of their background and have a white wife called Natalie was a conscious by-product of the decision.

“People vote for people who look and sound like them,” said Edwards. “The number of young voters that vote for you is determined by how young you are.”

Edwards said he expected “most” young, Māori former Cabinet ministers with a background in law, a fear of static electricity, who own a Peugeot, don’t consider their Māoridom to be a prominent part of their background, have a white wife called Natalie and attend an Anglican church to vote for National.

Simon Bridges is 41.