After two months as leader of the National Party, Todd Muller has resigned. Back in May 2020, I wrote an opinion piece where I wondered about his leadership skills and his creditability.
I found it odd that someone who aspired to lead our country failed to understand the implications of having a MAGA hat in his office. His childhood dream of being the President for life of the USA, surprised me and I shared my concern that a conservative religious man was again at the helm of the National Party. He has the right of course to his own beliefs, but his opposition to abortion and euthanasia seem to hark back to an earlier less progressive era of New Zealand politics.
Two months on, I am shocked but not really surprised at his political passing.
Muller was not a strong leader. He gave terrible interviews, and rather than offering up new ideas and policy all he seemed to do was throw out lame criticism of the current government.
Even worse for him, he was fatally undermined by the appalling and underhand behaviour of people such as Michelle Boag, Michael Woodhouse, and Hamish Walker. The ‘dirty tricks’ saga has left National with a major credibility problem, and Muller may not have been involved in it, he certainly failed to deal with it.
Given he was a relative newcomer to Parliament, I wonder why he stood for the leadership role.
Perhaps it was hubris? His parents were high achievers and he got a management job in their company. He moved on to senior management roles at Fonterra, but crucially he was never a CEO of anywhere.
I’m sure that like all of us he has had his ups and downs in life, but he’s a wealthy middle aged white man. He’s also religious. If we look at the stereotypical pyramid of privilege, he’s the kind of guy you’d expect to be at the apex.
This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if Mr Muller has ever been truly challenged or come under the kind of public scrutiny he has now experienced before taking the leadership from Simon Bridges?
I’m not saying all of this just to stick it to Mr Muller. I actually feel empathy for him. Politics is brutal. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
But Muller represented the fundamental problem of the National Party at the present time. It appears as out-dated, lacking in diversity, and devoid of any real vision.
In 2020, we are rapidly facing some crucial global challenges – climate change, eroding civil rights and the rise of totalitarian leadership, growing inequality, and a deadly pandemic. National has not offered anything substantive in relation to all of this. Instead we witnessed a party that would rather trade in lies and fake scandals in its desire to win the next election.
Muller has gone because he lacked the necessary leadership skills and couldn’t articulate a strong and comprehensive vision of New Zealand’s future while also being undermined by muck rakers.
Whoever replaces Muller needs to seriously think about why they want to do so, and whether they have the skills to manage the current caucus. More importantly, they could start asking what values they want their party to have and whether relying on dirty tricks is the best way to power.