Image: Simon Bridges / The National Party
“There’s no hair dye, just saying…”
Six little words that said so much. When Newshub asked National Party leader Simon Bridges about his post-lockdown grooming experiences, they couldn’t have dreamed up a better soundbite for their story.
Fresh off a day of talking about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s hair (which had apparently been dyed at home by partner Clarke Gayford; a puff story given prominence after a journalist that morning asked whether the reason for the at-home dye job was because the PM’s hair was going grey), and facing National’s worst poll result in recent memory, Bridges walked seemingly obliviously into a media trap he should’ve seen coming a mile away.
His quip, the subtext of which was, “unlike the Prime Minister, I don’t need hair dye, because I’m not going grey”, played right into the trope of disparaging women for committing the heinous crime of aging. He may not have meant it that way (though let’s be honest, he probably did) and he most likely didn’t think through how it would sound when it came out of his mouth, but it was an absolute clanger.
To be frank, (in my view, etc.) he sounded like a git. A sneering, pompous git. Which is not the impression you want to give when you’re facing a leadership poll that says that just a tiny 4.5 per cent want you to be Prime Minister (while a staggering 59.5 per cent prefer your opponent).
As ridiculous as it is to be talking about the Prime Minister’s hair, focus on a female PM’s appearance is hardly new. Cast your mind back a decade or so and the media was up in arms about then-Prime Minister Helen Clark’s decision to wear pants to an audience with Queen Elizabeth. Who cares? Quite. Only, it seems, when you’ve got a woman leading the country, a number of people do care about how they present themselves, and so the Prime Minister’s hair dye (she’s just like us – she dyes her hair with supermarket hair dye!) became news.
The only reason it’s still news, however, is because a veteran politician who should’ve known much better walked into a silly trap laid by an experienced journalist and ended up looking like an absolute tosser. Yes, the question was irrelevant to the poll. Yes, the soundbite was shoehorned into a story it didn’t really fit into. And yet, Bridges has no one to blame but himself. At this stage in his leadership, if he can’t sidestep such an obvious media set-up, then his party needs to step in and save him from himself.
How? By removing him. At this stage, a new leader is the only hope they’ve got if they want to have even a sliver of a chance of winning the election this September. The question is, who would want to replace him, when the PM is flying so high? National may have no choice but to throw this election and cast him as the scapegoat, but as a spine-breaking defeat would mean that 17 National Party MPs lose their seats, there’ll no doubt be serious rumblings happening in the National Party Caucus. A coup will be risky, but it may be their only chance if they want to avoid absolute bloodshed.
At this stage, the election question atop most minds is how many more dyed-in-the-wool National supporters will tick the red box this September.Support Villainesse