The clock now officially taps Simon Bridges as leader of the National Party.
It does not mean that he will lose the job this week, this or even this year. But he will eventually be gone.
How can bridges stop the inevitable? He must find who it is that has leaked the details of his expenses. Then, if it is someone in his party, punish that person severely.
The problem for Bridges is that this legend makes him seem weak. Even impockent. He can not figure out who leaked the details, he can not force the police to give him the name they have, and he can even prevent Speaker Trevor Mallard from rejecting his investigation into the leak.
Bridges is powerless. Just like any other leader of the opposition before him. Pretendent on the throne, but until then not being able to tell someone what to do. Not even their own caucus half the time.
And although that is not unusual, it is not useful to point out. To everyone. So obvious.
In order to solve this, Bridges needs to find out who sent the text. Who texted Bridges, Mallard and two media organizations who claimed to be a national insider? Claiming that the release story has been leaked to punish Bridges for arrogance and waste of tax money? Pleas for the cancellation of Mallard's investigation, warning them that they had mental health issues and could walk over the edge if they were openly exposed.
Guessing who the leaker is is impossible. Because, frankly, everyone looks guilty. Yet there are two realistic scenarios.
The first scenario is that the leaker is someone in Labor. The motivation is there. Almost a year after the elections, the Labor must not stop that National is still hugely popular. Certainly, Labor must be looking for ways to scare voters.
But that is a big appeal, because it would mean that Mallard violated the age-old tradition of speaker neutrality. A loudspeaker can not play favorites. A speaker should become something of a political eunuch. Nobody turned on.
Yet it is remarkable that Mallard has canceled the investigation into the leak on Friday. The day before he was shaking off his guns and Michael Heron had appointed QC to lead it.
So why would you blow it off? Nothing was changed overnight. Mallard had had the text for at least a week. The only new information was that the police knew who it was and it was certain that the leaker had mental health to handle the investigation.
The second and most likely scenario is that someone in National leaked it.
The reason is that Bridges is not popular among voters. Someone might think that they would do better.
It is suspected that the texter has provided details about discussions with the National Party Caucus. It is also suspected that Bridges has already informed his MPs that they may not agree to search their electronic devices.
Yet he wants an investigation. Admittedly, a study that may not provide access to all National computers.
Unless we know who leaked it, the suspicion falls on National Caucus. That suggests the kind of division and instability that National has tried so hard to avoid.
National has focused on absolute discipline. That is the best way to look like a government in anticipation. It is the easiest way to be re-elected in 2020.
That is the risk of evaporation. And Bridges must take the blame here. The only reason this happened is because he was looking for an investigation. He should never have done that.
The original story he spent on $ 113,000 on crown limes was not the end of the world. It would have been fish and chips paper within a half-week of tops. But now it is being dragged and it is so much bigger. It is a bad decision.
It might be possible for Bridges to find this out. But it may also require a sacrifice: the leaker. But to do that, Bridges has to find them.