If you’re a center-right voter hoping against all odds for National to pull itself together, this week suggests you may need to start thinking about Plan B.
It will always be difficult for National to have a serious chance in the next election, but after two resigns in a week, I would say their chances have gotten much longer.
Quite simply because they are wasting precious time rebuilding by continuing to destroy their own brand.
Brands take a long time to develop, and the clock starts again when you have something as disgusting as a so-called sex scandal and wonder if the leader arranged for the resignation of veteran MP Nick Smith, who made him – even in the face of allegations of bullying.
The clock has just started again for National, which means that they have lost seven months of rebuilding time.
That leaves them with just under two and a half years before the next election. It hasn’t been long when you have a brand that is now as toxic as the National brand.
And make no mistake, National is the most toxic brand in parliament right now.
There are those die-hards who are probably hoping that someone at the National will be able to pull a Jacinda Ardern, sweep months or weeks before the election, and change the fortunes of the party.
But Jacinda Ardern has not taken over the leadership of a party suffering from this kind of brand damage.
As desperate as Labor was, at least Andrew Little had spent two and a half years tidying up.
During her time – as far as I can remember – there were no sex scandals, and while the stabbing was definitely in progress (Annette King was stabbed from the deputy director), he was in hiding at the public view.
National has a lot of work to do before 2023 without this nonsense happening.
They must find and support a credible leader, they must promote a credible team around that person, they must prepare thoughtful and popular policies, they must explain to the Kiwis what their vision is for a better New Zealand, they must attract and choose better candidates, they attracted donations, they sued this government and made headlines about its shortcomings.
This is only a fraction of what is needed.
So if National is hoping to have a chance in the next election, then they can’t afford weeks like this anymore.
Because even a Hail Mary pass like Jacinda Arden gave to Labor doesn’t seem likely to save them in 2023.