Jessica Mutch McKay: Hipkins' Nash decision decisive and efficient

Former Police Minister Stuart Nash.

A simple, political problem.

That’s how Prime Minister Chris Hipkins viewed the Stuart Nash saga yesterday and that’s how he handled it.

With a swift, sharp swipe, Nash was cut from the Police portfolio after admitting to breaching Cabinet rules in a Newstalk ZB interview yesterday.

This is a huge no-no. The Cabinet Manual is clear - ministers do not comment or involve themselves in the investigation of offences. It's about separation of powers - it's a big deal.

Other Cabinet ministers would have taken note of this no-nonsense approach. Nash is now a cautionary tale of how quickly it can all go wrong. A week is a long time in politics? Try seven hours.

At 7am, Nash had his radio Interview on Newstalk ZB.

At 11.20am Nash was interviewed by press gallery journalists. He defended his actions.

Just before 2pm, the prime minister fronted media on the way into the debating chamber, and announced Nash had been stripped of the police portfolio, saying if Nash had not resigned he would have been fired.

Hipkins' justice was swift and concise.

Absolutely Nash broke the rules and absolutely he needed to go but Hipkins clearly didn’t need much time to ponder the decision.

ACT also moved quickly to call for a debate on the drama during Parliament's general debate at 3pm.

If the Prime Minister had taken more time ACT and National would have gone to town in the debating chamber calling for action.

It would have been great political theatre, but Hipkins' decisive action stole their thunder. Instead, they have to pivot and call for him to be stripped of his other portfolios instead – not quite as ferocious. If politics was a game of chess, Hipkins saw a few moves ahead.

I talked to Nash after his resignation yesterday. He was flat but philosophical. He said he was “disappointed” but would carry on with his portfolios.

We all know he loved being police minister - that was part of what got him into trouble in the first place - so it’s a hefty punishment for him.

There’s no doubt it’s a bad look for Labour and distracting, but it appears to have provided the prime minister the opportunity to look decisive and firmly in control.