Morning Briefing May 22: Moment of truth for Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges’ grip on his role as National leader likely slipped further last night, as the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll delivered a fresh round of bad news for the party.

Simon Bridges Source: Getty

On the eve of today’s increasingly messy leadership vote, National’s support slumped to its lowest level in more than 15 years at 29 per cent, while Labour hit a record high of 59 per cent – up by a phenomenal 18 points.

The news isn’t any better for Mr Bridges in the preferred prime minister category, where he’s registered just 5 per cent support.

Conversely, Jacinda Ardern’s reached 63 per cent, the highest number seen in 25 years of the 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll.

National will vote at midday on who they want to lead them through to September’s election.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller has already told his colleagues he wants the job, however, there could be another twist in the tale. 1 NEWS understands Rodney MP Mark Mitchell may still put his name forward today, too.

Last night’s poll is also raising questions over the future of other National MPs.

Political commentator Neale Jones says those who won their seats narrowly at the last election will be nervously looking over their shoulders right now. 

"If I was Chris Bishop in Hutt South, or Nick Smith in Nelson, or Nikki Kaye in Auckland Central, I'd be very worried about losing my seat," he says.

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So, who is Todd Muller?

It’s a question many Kiwis have been asking over the past few days: Who is this Todd Muller who wants to lead the National party?

The 51-year-old first entered parliament in 2014, however he also once worked for former Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

Based on a 1 NEWS experiment earlier this week, he hasn’t built up much public recognition in that time. The people 1 NEWS spoke to couldn’t name Mr Muller when shown a picture of him. 

But judging by his latest spending on travel and accommodation, it looks like Mr Muller may have been trying to raise his profile around the country over the past few months.

His spending in that area has jumped to more than $34,500, second only to Mr Bridges who spent more than $37,100.

Police green light church services 

1 NEWS can reveal large religious services may be able to resume under Alert Level 2, so long as they meet certain criteria.

Police have this morning issued new guidelines for venues, meaning multiple groups of up to 10 people could gather, so long as the venue size allows each group to stay two metres apart. Appropriate contact tracing still needs to be in place. 

This police stance contradicts the Government’s position of capping religious services to just 10 people.

The police’s new guidance today also urges officers to use “discretion and common sense” when attending a place of worship in an operational capacity.

Middle-aged say no to cannabis changes

New research shows middle-aged New Zealanders are more likely to oppose the legalisation of cannabis in this year’s referendum.

The University of Otago study found 49.8 per cent of respondents, all 40 years old, opposed legalising cannabis. Meanwhile, 26.8 per cent supported the law change.

However, there’s overwhelming support for the medicinal use of cannabis, with 80 per cent of respondents saying doctors should be able to supply cannabis products to those with chronic pain or health problems.

Kiwis told: Keep dance moves in check

As New Zealand enters its first weekend back at pubs and clubs in two months, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has urged people to have fun but stay safe.

Although New Zealand has had no new cases of Covid-19 for a fourth straight day, Dr Bloomfield says people should still limit their interactions at the pub.

“It will be a great chance to catch up with a friend and support your local business. This may not, however, be the time to publicly try out any new dance moves you have learnt over the lockdown,” he says.

As Stuff reports, Dr Bloomfield says the promising Covid-19 case numbers have put officials in a good position to advise Cabinet on Monday about the possibility of increasing the size of groups allowed to gather. 

Will virus end beneficiary bashing?

The economic fallout of Covid-19 has seen nearly 40,000 people access the jobseeker benefit, nearly half of them for the first time. One million other Kiwis have been given government support through the wage subsidy.

So, Re: asks, is it possible New Zealand might finally see an end to its rampant beneficiary bashing attitude?

The answer? Probably not

Other news of note this morning:

The BBC reports the Indian city of Kolkata has been devastated by Cyclone Amphan.

The official number of Covid-19 cases worldwide has passed the 5 million mark. The actual number of cases is believed to be much higher. 

Westpac has followed ANZ in dropping its one year fixed home loan rate to 2.79 per cent – and is offering the same for its two year fixed term rate. 

Campaigners say they’re delighted over a $2.2 million Budget allocation to provide access to sanitary products in schools and kura.

RNZ reports sex workers are struggling to balance client privacy with the need to record contact tracing information at Alert Level 2.

Challengers for next year's America's Cup are growing frustrated as they’re unable to travel to New Zealand to begin their preparations.

And CNN reports Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty in a college admissions scam.

And finally...

Source: Seven Sharp

It’s usually around this time of year that punters are out enjoying the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.

Of course, Covid-19 has crashed that party, but fans of Auckland comedy improv troupe Snort are still in for a treat with a series of the show recorded before lockdown.

Snort Live has just launched on TVNZ OnDemand and features a rotating cast of New Zealand’s best young comedians.

Here, Laura Daniel does her best to pretend she’s not a member of the troupe in order to deliver her best impartial reporting on the venture. (And her Snort pals are not here for it.)