Will Judith Collins be National’s next leader? Political insiders at odds

As experts in the field consider who could take over as National's leader following the shock departure of Todd Muller this morning, one political commentator doesn't think Judith Collins should step into the role.

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Bryce Edwards says given she was caught up in Nicky Hager's 2014 Dirty Politics book, now wouldn't be the best time for her to take over following Todd Muller's resignation. Source: Breakfast

It's well known that Ms Collins has previously been interested in being leader, however Bryce Edwards told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning that given she was caught up in Nicky Hager's 2014 Dirty Politics book, now wouldn't be the best time given the tumultuous week National has just had.

Last week, National's Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker announced he wouldn't run at September's election after he confessed to leaking confidential Covid-19 patient information to the media.

Michelle Boag, a former National Party president, stepped aside from the party for her involvement in the leak. She gave the information to Mr Walker, having abused her position as acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

In announcing he will step down as leader, but remain MP for Bay of Plenty, in his statement, Mr Muller said: "The role has taken a heavy toll on me personally, and on my family, and this has become untenable from a health perspective."

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He has only been in the role for a short time, after ousting Simon Bridges. Source: Breakfast

Nikki Kaye is acting leader, with the caucus to meeting in Wellington tonight. 

"Some people will think it's the obvious time for Judith Collins to finally come out, you know, she's been wanting this for a long time, maybe it's finally her hour," Mr Edwards said.

"I don't think it is. I think due to the nature of the scandal last week she's going to be counted out essentially because it was tawdry, it was toxic, it looked like dirty politics with all the leaking of private information which Judith Collins, unfortunately for her, was associated with in the past under the old Nicky Hager Dirty Politics book.

"I think it's more likely to be someone like Nikki Kaye, of course she's the deputy leader, she takes over as acting leader for the moment and if she wants it, and in the past it hasn't been clear if she's wanted it, but if she does want it I think she's going to be the front-runner to be the new leader.

"Otherwise it might be Amy Adams, I think she might do a good job, or they might look for a steady pair of hands just to save them over the next two months which could be someone like Gerry Brownlee."

Mr Edwards added, though, that National had been struggling and it would take more than a change in leadership to go up against popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour-led coalition Government which has been hailed for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"You have to look back to 2017 when Andrew Little was leader [of the Labour Party], you know, Labour were polling much worse than National are at the moment, they had a change in leader seven weeks out, this is nine weeks out from the election, Ardern came in and changed it all.

"There will be some disruption through this change which could be positive, I mean, I'm thinking it'll probably be more negative than positive. It could lead to a lot of National voters actually disappearing, going over to ACT, might even revive New Zealand First."

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Ben Thomas predicts the two options for leader are now Judith Collins or a return to Simon Bridges. Source: Breakfast

Meanwhile, another political commentator, Ben Thomas, predicted Mrs Collins or Simon Bridges would return as leader after he was rolled by Mr Muller in May.

"This must be among the shortest stints for a major party leader," he told Breakfast.

"There are two options, the first is you reinstall Simon Bridges and say the last two months were a terrible dream and now you’ve woken up and ready to continue.

"The other option is Judith Collins, probably easily National’s best performer if you average it out over the last decade, certainly their best performer in Opposition.

"If you were National you would want to give her the leadership to let her test her ambition or put up and shut up essentially."