Opinion: Biggest challenge facing National Party's eventual new leader will be the Jacinda Ardern political juggernaut

The leadership vote to be conducted by National's caucus within the next two weeks may well turn out to be the ballot that those who end up contesting the party's top job might well prefer to lose.

Source: 1 NEWS

That may seem a rather bizarre thing to say. And none of those trampling over one another in unseemly haste to get their names on the ballot paper are likely to have given much thought to the argument that victory may not turn out to be quite the triumph they are assuming will be the case.

More than likely, however, whomever wakes up on the day after the vote as the victor may also find themselves waking up to the far from pleasant realisation that he or she has inherited a bona fide poisoned chalice.

The PM’s message came during Parliament’s Question Time. Source: 1 NEWS

That should give serious food for thought for one Simon Bridges. The Tauranga MP is not everyone's cup of tea. He has made no effort to hide his ambitions in the wake of National's removal from power last October.

Bridges can be overly abrasive. His voice can peel paint. It can often sound like whining of skill-saw proportions.

But no-one else who is likely to seek election as leader has the competence, experience, freshness or drive necessary to stop the political juggernaut that is Jacinda Ardern from cleaning up at the 2020 election.

Mr English says he’s “very happy” with his decision to step down as National Party leader. Source: Seven Sharp

And that is National's dilemma. New Zealand's political history is littered with highly-promising Opposition party leaders who ended up finding their futures being crushed under the wheels of a new government embarked on its first term in office.

However good they might have been when it came to running the country, defeat at the election following their installation as leader saw them being subsequently dumped.

When it comes to leadership aspirants, National does not lack for quantity. It does lack for quality - especially the kind that can shine in Opposition.

The National Party leader and former PM stepped down today after entering Parliament in 1990. Source: 1 NEWS

The capacity to enthuse, excite and inspire the punters is not something in Steven Joyce's armoury or vocabulary.

Paula Bennett was promoted above the level of her competence, she is devoid of gravitas. She was called on to deliver on state housing in Auckland. She failed. Judith Collins has tried her hardest to put her chequered record behind her. But in the eyes of colleagues, she is "RISK" writ large.

Jonathan Coleman could make for a very good deputy once the droppings from the albatross which is the Health portfolio are finally cleaned away.

1 NEWS’ Political editor gives his analysis after Bill English stepped down today. Source: 1 NEWS

The other possibilities for deputy are Amy Adams who is rock solid in terms of competence, while Nikki Kaye would dovetail neatly with Bridges' strengths.

National's worry is that picking Bridges ends up putting him on the fast road to the political scrapheap.

English's relaxed and disarming demeanour meant the pressures which come with the role of Leader of the Opposition have been well hidden since his being forced to relinquish the prime ministership little more than three months ago.

Having achieved what had long been deemed impossible in preserving National's vote at last September's general election at well above the 40 per cent mark for the fourth such consecutive time and consequently maintaining National's dominance in Parliament in terms of being the party holding the most seats in the chamber, English was thus under no pressure to deliver.

The latter's successor will enjoy none of those ameliorating factors which disguised the oft-quoted wisdom that being the Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics, but one that the ambitious are far more often than not obliged to do in order to secure the best job in politics, namely becoming prime minister.

If you have any doubts about the veracity of that observation, just note the examples of Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little.

English might have been biting back tears while making his announcement that he was standing down as leader.

When those aforementioned one-time Labour leaders were relieved of the post, you could have been excused thinking they were about to shed tears of joy such was their almost palpable relief.

Labour's circumstances during those leaders' respective tenures in charge during the party's most recent spell in Opposition were far more dire than National's currently are.

There are significant similarities, however.

The most obvious one — and the one that will be the biggest challenge facing the new leader — will be Ardern herself.

The Prime Minister is a Sir John Key in drag — but wth vision.

Like English's predecessor, Ardern has shown no qualms in putting the pragmatic ahead of principle when circumstances so demand.

English benefited hugely from being seen as, if not the creator of the rock-star economy, then at least as its highly responsible minder.

Ardern enjoys rock-star status. The only hit that anyone has landed on her — Labour's on-again, off-again stance on the introduction of a capital gains tax — was self-inflicted.

In contrast, National's new leader will start Day One from Square One.

The Jacinda-effect claims another victim with Mr English deciding he’s not the man to lead National forward. Source: 1 NEWS

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