National MPs will be under the microscope next week when their leader starts individual performance reviews. Christopher Luxon told political editor Jo Moir some of his caucus would have to change the way they do politics.

Christopher Luxon has been adamant since becoming National leader in November that he wants to do politics differently and is starting with how his own MPs perform.

His caucus has been busy filling out reports on their portfolio areas – identifying key priorities and policy work, including areas where they could collaborate with the Government.

Starting next week all 32 MPs will sit down with Luxon and go through what their plans are and how they’ll do it in the coming months.

Their homework is complete and Luxon says while he hasn’t read all of it yet, most have filled in the box about collaborating with the Government.

He told Newsroom constructive criticism wasn’t a bad thing and he thinks each MP is ready to hear what they need to do to improve.

Asked whether he would need to break some of his MPs who are in the habit of being more oppositional in their approach, Luxon was lost for words, instead making some sort of throat clicking noise and bursting into laughter.

Encouraged to use his words instead, Luxon replied, “Well yeah, obviously, that’s part of the coaching conversations’’.

“I’m trying to work out what conversations you have with your boss – it’s all very normal for me.

“It’s ‘love you for that, but you’ve got to work harder on this, you’ve got to stop that and start this and continue doing that’,’’ he said.

“They’re very straightforward conversations.’’

Luxon’s big game plan and sell to the electorate kicks off officially on Sunday when he will make his State of the Nation speech in Auckland.

It was meant to be earlier in the year but was delayed by the Omicron outbreak and changes to the traffic light system.

He didn’t want to reveal the details of his speech but said there would be a policy announcement, and more broadly it was about how the National Party would win back the voters it lost.

“We are the people who can run the economy well … but I also want them to understand we care deeply about people.’’

Luxon has spoken at length with Newsroom over multiple interviews about his desire to see legislation passed that will last beyond an election cycle.

He has previously discussed wanting to work with ministers on mental health and didn’t see why he couldn’t sit down with the Prime Minister and discuss a cross-party way to end mandates and other Covid restrictions.

“After you spoke to me, I reached out to Jacinda and said if there’s anything we can do to help let us know.’’ – Christopher Luxon

Just three weeks ago in an interview with Newsroom he said he hadn’t spoken directly with Jacinda Ardern since becoming leader, but he wasn’t averse to it.

At that point, the protest on Parliament’s lawn was nearing the end of its first week and both Luxon and Ardern were singing from the same songsheet about not engaging with the protesters until they got rid of the abusive messaging and anti-social behaviour.

Newsroom’s questioning prompted Luxon to act.

“After you spoke to me, I reached out to Jacinda and said if there’s anything we can do to help let us know.’’

The text messaging has continued throughout the occupation of Parliament grounds and surrounding streets.

Luxon was also in touch with Speaker Trevor Mallard daily, sometimes more, and was receiving regular updates throughout.

“I felt as parliamentarians we all had the same stance out there in terms of dealing with the protesters, and that was actually important.’’

For the first two weeks, Parliament held a very joint position condemning the protest and all agreed to a statement, which was put out by Speaker Trevor Mallard on behalf of all political parties.

But a few days after that, Luxon made a speech that some interpreted as being sympathetic to the protesters and their demands.

He rejects that and says he was very careful to separate the two, and that he has always maintained the protest was unacceptable.

The point Luxon says he was making was that New Zealanders had legitimate concerns about what the Government’s plan is for easing restrictions and mandates.

He told Newsroom he was raising concerns held by many in Auckland and the rest of the country, and the timing of the speech – on the day protesters threw human excrement at police – wasn’t naïve or inappropriate.

“For a lot of people across the country they really appreciated that speech. Maybe in the beltway of Wellington here we were very consumed by the protest, but I’ve been up and down the country every week – I’m in three or four different towns a week – and you’re hearing it, not just the Wellington perspective, you’re seeing real people with real challenges saying what the hell is going on and when is the clarity going to emerge.’’

Luxon says Ardern deliberately connected his comments to the protesters, but he takes it as a win that mandates were addressed by her later that week.

The protest has now cleared from Parliament after a fiery and combative showdown between protesters and police on Wednesday.

Asked if any political parties came out looking good in the protest, Luxon says he thinks Parliament as a whole did.

“That protest was very different to what we’ve seen from any other protest, and we go out to protests all the time.

“I think there was some real good unity from within the Parliament in terms of how we handled it,’’ Luxon said.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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