• More Punch – and Judy Too?

    The fall-out from the Jami-Lee Ross debacle no doubt accounts for Simon Bridges’ latest poll rating as preferred Prime Minister, at just 7%.

    Political commentators have interpreted this as the writing on the wall and have become excited at the prospect of a leadership challenge – but not, it seems, as excited as Judith Collins – rating at just 2% behind Bridges. She has wasted no time in seeking the headlines with a mean-minded attack on a young couple who had the temerity to holiday overseas while waiting to move into a KiwiBuild house.

    A couple of cautionary observations should perhaps dampen the excitement. A Collins rating of 5% is hardly a ringing endorsement, particularly when recorded at a time when the incumbent was up to his neck in adverse publicity.

    More importantly, it is less than a year since the National caucus had the chance to survey all the candidates and to make a judgment on each one of them. They decided on that occasion that Judith Collins was not for them. There seems no obvious reason for them to change their minds.

    Any flirtation on the part of the National party with a Collins leadership presumably arises from the sentiment that the party needs, in opposition, more aggression and energy – someone better able to land a telling blow on a popular Prime Minister.

    But that sentiment rests on flimsy foundations. Yes, Judith Collins has carefully cultivated (and probably propagated in the first place) her image as “Crusher” Collins – but does that image, even if it represented some element of reality, necessarily equip her to do a good job as Leader of the Opposition and eventually, perhaps, as Prime Minister?

    For every voter who might respond positively to a supposed bruiser and street fighter as National leader, there will be another who is repelled by that style of politics – and, in any case, Simon Bridges’ deficiencies do not include a lack of aggression. He is marked down because people do not warm to the way he comes across. Who is to say that they would warm to another leader who was even more aggressive and lacking in charm?

    There are many qualities other than aggression that voters seek – as Jacinda Ardern’s popularity demonstrates. A leader of the Opposition who was able to mix it in a roughhouse could still be seen as lacking the poise and judgment that would be needed in a Prime Minister. We should never forget that what makes the job of leading the Opposition so difficult is that the holder of that office must be seen not only as an effective and combative critic of the government but also as a potential Prime Minister.

    It is here that the case for a Judith Collins leadership really starts to crumble. We now know enough about her to doubt whether she is an appropriate, let alone credible, candidate for the top job. A simple rehearsal of some of the high (or perhaps that should be low) points of her political career should be enough to confirm those doubts.

    Her close relationship with Cameron Slater – he of “Dirty Politics” fame – should ring the alarm bells; Cameron Slater regards her as his mentor in the black arts and has said as much. Her refusal to recognise the conflict of interest implicit in a dinner with her husband’s firm, Oravida, when on a taxpayer-paid ministerial visit to China was compounded by the misinformation she offered to explain the visit she paid to its offices – it was, she said, simply for a “cup of tea on the way to the airport”, when the airport was actually in the opposite direction. These malfeasances obliged both the Speaker and John Key, when Prime Minister, to reprimand her and stand her down.

    These elements strongly suggest that what might be seen by her supporters as a commendable willingness to cut corners and to “get down and dirty” should actually disqualify her from offering herself as a potential Prime Minister. The National caucus should think hard before re-considering their earlier verdict on a Collins leadership – if you want more punch, do you really have to have Judy as well?

    Bryan Gould
    27 October 2018

1 Comment

  1. Jeremy Callaghan says: October 30, 2018 at 9:34 amReply

    Very good! Exquisite ending! Jeremy