Christopher Luxon has made a bold pitch to current – and former – National Party voters during his first speech as leader.
Flanked by his new deputy Nicola Willis, the former Air NZ chief called it an “incredible privilege and honour” to have been chosen for the top job.
“Much has been made of my relative newness to Parliament but to be honest, I see it as an advantage,” said Luxon, who was only elected to parliament in October 2020. “I bring a fresh set of eyes, and what I see is that this place and this country needs a shake-up. Nicola and I are fresh new faces for a revitalised National Party.
“We are the reset.”
Luxon said he was drawing a line under the events of the last four years. “If you are one of the 413,000 voters who moved away from us, my message to you is: from today, National is back.”
On repairing relationships in caucus following a series of controversies, Luxon said, “New Zealand’s over it, the National Party is over it and caucus is over it.
“We are turning the page, putting the baggage aside, trusting each other. We know that will take work but we’re going to do that job incredibly well.”
New Zealand is at a critical cross-roads as we grapple with – and emerge from – Covid-19, said Luxon. “We have a choice: a choice between our current road to mediocrity, or a pathway to a more confident, aspirational and prosperous future,” he said.
“New Zealand needs an alternative now more than ever to take us in the right direction – because frankly, the country is heading the wrong way.”
Luxon has had a dramatic ascent into the role of National leader. Until a week ago, it was widely expected it would be Simon Bridges who would replace Judith Collins in the role. Ultimately, he could not manage the numbers needed within the National caucus and withdrew from the leadership race today.
Luxon told media this evening it was too early to speculate on which roles would be allocated to the likes of his predecessors Collins, Bridges and Todd Muller. He said there would be a role for every member of his caucus. “I am new to politics, and yes, I may make some mistakes along the way and I think that’s actually good,” he said. “But we have a team that is backing us up with complementary skills.”
Bridges, in particular, had a “key” role to play going forward, said Luxon.
On the place of his faith in parliament, Luxon said: “My faith has often been misrepresented and portrayed very negatively. My faith is actually something that has grounded me… I want to be very clear, we have separation between politics and faith. People shouldn’t be selecting an MP because of their faith and they shouldn’t not be selecting an MP because of their faith.”
Luxon said he was here to represent all New Zealanders, not just people of one faith or one interest.
“We’re going to build a high-performance team and make sure we have complementary skills. I come from a corporate world and an outside world, Nicola’s done incredible things in a political world for a very long time.”
Asked “who is Christopher Luxon”, he replied: “I’m a wannabe DIY guy, I spend too much time at Bunnings… I love waterskiing and I love country music, and that’s not cool to say and I apologise to New Zealand for saying it. I’m an extrovert and fundamentally I know how to lead people and how to lead teams.”
On speculation that former prime minister John Key had been working the phones behind the scenes, Luxon said that was false. He called the rumours “frustrating”.
“I am not John Key. I am Christopher Luxon,” he said.