Muller and Kaye. That was the choice. It was the wrong choice in my view.
That's not to say Muller does not have positives, and I have to say his "maiden" speech as National's leader hit the right notes and his personality showed signs of life, which is encouraging. That speech promised a strategy that targeted Labour's weaknesses. It's not rocket science but something National has not done well of late.
Muller acknowledged Labour's strengths (Ardern and Robertson primarily) which portrayed a sense of realism and it avoided picking an argument with those who think Arden in particular has done a good job during the crisis, which is most people. The strategy will instead focus on the many weak-links in the Labour line-up and focus on their track record of promising big and delivering little.
Muller has also opened up the possibility of working with the Greens and NZ First. That's a long-shot but understandable given National lacks a coalition partner, apart from ACT that has failed to re-establish support beyond the single electorate gifted to it by National. This does not mean to say that either the Greens or NZ First will want to work with National. It may, however, be the start of long-term bridge building.
The key issue is whether the electorate will take the time to consider the policies of the new leadership or whether they will simply go on likeability. For most, it will be the latter and that will be National's challenge because on that score Ardern wins.
There is no doubt National's poll rating will recover to +40% as the reality of the economic recession bites. It would have under Bridges also. But the real test for Mr Muller is whether he can take it to +45%.
The decision to go with Muller is typical of National: Low risk. They should have gone with Judith Collins - feisty, bucket loads of personality, and a person with no-nonsense positions on the Resource Management Act, Maori privilege, and global warming. These are all issues with constituencies that are screaming out for representation and issues that are up for grabs by ACT or NZ First.
The problem for Collins is that anyone with a strong position on anything is unlikely to gain favour with their caucus colleagues. As an institution, National is just too risk-averse, too establishment, and the MPs are too fearful of losing their jobs.
The issue confronting National is whether they change leader again if they become a second term opposition. Maybe then they will gain some courage, but history would suggest not.
Frank Newman, a writer and investment analyst, is a former local body councillor.