Opinion: Judith Collins 'will almost certainly be spared' joy of leading National Party with vote just days away

Judith Collins' pedigree is of an increasingly rare breed of politician, one who measures success according to the number of brickbats hurled in his or her direction. The more the better. But not the merrier.

If people are unhappy, it is confirmation in Collins' mind that she got it right. It is confirmation that she did not take the easy option; the easy option being almost always the wrong option.

Source: 1 NEWS

Bouquets are for wimps. Wimps like Sir John Key? Collins did not mention the former National Party leader by name. But it was pretty obvious to whom she was referring in a post on Facebook earlier this week in which she declared "I've never needed a focus group to tell me what to say and what to care about".

It is such blunt talk which has seen a surprising number of political pundits, columnists, Beltway insiders and bloggers endorse Collins as the best choice to replace Bill English as National's leader.

Ms Collins said her National leadership rival disobeyed rules set out by Bill English. Source: 1 NEWS

It is a bitter-sweet endorsement, however. There is a common thread running through the commentaries sparked by next Tuesday's election of the new leader of the country's major Opposition party.

The message is that when it comes to choice, National has none. The party is already being written off in advance of the 2020 general election.

National's chances of avoiding that gloomy prognosis hangs on one thing.

In order to destroy Labour, National must first destroy Jacinda Ardern. Or so the argument goes.

The four other candidates scrapping over the leadership might well be capable of holding their own when going head-to-head with Ardern. But holding one's own is not going to be good enough. Only Collins possesses the pugnacity, the perseverance and ultimately the necessary pig-headedness to nobble Ardern. Or so the argument goes.

It is an argument which seems to cut little or no ice with the bulk of the 55 other MPs in National's caucus. When it comes to such advice, it is a case of thanks, but no thanks.

Judith Collins has this morning tweeted she’ll be running as a candidate for leader of the National Party. Source: 1 NEWS

Unleashing an "attack dog" like Collins on Ardern would have the purpose of stripping the glitz and the gloss off Labour's leader in the hope that would persuade voters that she is really no different from any other politician.

As Labour discovered with its various attempts to sully Key's image when he was prime minister, the very popularity of the target can make that personality virtually untouchable.

It is the attacker who ends up incurring damage. Pinging a prime minister whose popularity is soaring can make the critic appear churlish, petty and jealous.

The only victim of a strategy of out-and-out attack thus may turn out to be the perpetrator.

For at least the first half of a new government's first term, the Opposition struggles for attention, it struggles for relevance.

It has to endure the constant cry of its enemy that has displaced it on the Government benches that each and every thing that has gone wrong is a legacy of the previous administration and thus the fault of the current Opposition.

Those circumstances would pose special problems for Collins. She sells herself as a politician who makes an impact.

Unless she were able to land some early and substantial hits on Ardern and other Cabinet ministers, she would be branded by her own strict standard as a failure.

The pressure to make an impact can result in Opposition party leaders creating mountains out of molehills. That is desperation politics.

Collins will almost certainly be spared such joys. According to the reports of those close to the relentless lobbying being conducted by the contenders ahead of Tuesday's ballot, Collins could count on only a handful of votes when the contest got under way in earnest following English's resignation announcement— and she can count on even less now.

There are plenty of other reasons why her caucus colleagues will continue to ignore the advice emanating from the swelling ranks of the Judith Collins Fan Club.

One of those is her being prone to serious lapses of judgment. That was never more apparent than during the Oravida saga which saw her display only a passing regard for the conflict of interest rules in the Cabinet Manual.

For someone of such intelligence, this character failing is inexplicable.

Such gaffes have made it impossible for her to lead National. That is because the party can have no guarantee that another career-shortening blunder is just around the corner.

There are even more telling reasons why those pushing Collins' cause are going to be disappointed.

The Papakura MP remains a popular figure in some quarters of her party. As voter research conducted by polling company UMR Research shows, her unfavourably rating outside those confines is uncomfortably high.

Collins is a creature of the right. She is utterly unapologetic about that. But every time she declares that National has gone "too far to the left", the more you can almost hear large chunks of votes slipping from the party's grip.

That is not lost on Collins. She has set a figure of 35 per cent as a tipping-point. If National's support slipped below that level, she would expected to be tipped out of the leadership.

If that result was replicated at election-time, however, at least a dozen MPs in National's caucus would be looking for new jobs.

Such equations are hardly an incentive to vote for the person writing them.

If nothing else, however, Collins' candidacy has highlighted the quandary facing all the contenders who are seeking to be English's successor: How do you reposition the party or at least refresh its image without losing traction with voters in the centre?

The 2017 election was many different things to many different people. But no-one would claim that the outcome flagged a wish on the part of the electorate to shift the fulcrum of political discourse and actions to the right.

If anything, it was the very opposite.

In a perfect world, National would be able to call on Collins to take out Ardern by fair means and foul. Once the job was done, Collins would be replaced by someone more accommodating to the compromises required of those playing MMP politics, rather than a relic from the dinosaur-like era of first-past-the-post politics.

Collins would then be put out to pasture; Crushersaurus Rex free to rampage harmlessly behind the very high fences of her very own Jurassic Park. As we all know, however, the world is far from perfect.

Judith Collins on why she wants National's top spot. Source: 1 NEWS

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'Government coming apart at the seams' says Simon Bridges as second minister gone

National Party Leader Simon bridges says today's dumping of Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri shows more weak leadership by the Prime Minister, leading to a weak Government which is "coming apart at the seams".

Less than a year in Government, two ministers are now gone after Jacinda Ardern today axed Ms Whaitiri following a Ministerial Services report on an incident last month in which she was alleged to have assaulted a staff member during an event in Gisborne.

It comes after the MP was accused of assaulting a staff member in Gisborne. Source: 1 NEWS

Clare Curran quit her remaining ministerial roles about two weeks ago after being rattled in Parliament over questions about her use of personal email for Government business, and having already been stripped of two portfolios over undeclared meetings.

Mr Bridges says today's sacking of Ms Whaitiri is more weak leadership leading to a weak government. 

"I mean we've not had a ongoing series of chaos and sagas, whether it's been Curran, now Whaitiri, and of course managing or not managing as the case may be Winston Peters," the National Party leader said. 

"The Prime Minister has to take responsibility for that weak leadership. If we look at Meka Whaitiri, what's happened here is very clear. Nothing has changed. She's known the facts about an alleged incident now for week, but just like with Curran she has dithered and mucked around and she should have dealt with this much more early," he said.

Ms Whaitiri will stay on as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Mr Bridges says that's a question for the Prime Minister.

"I think the reality is she still has leadership roles here. She's still chairing a caucus committee, and that's not good enough," he said.

"Still there's basic questions that I'm sure the Prime Minister knows but she won't answer, like whether there's been other incidents, what has happened here. She should have got to the bottom of this and dealt with this a long time ago."

Mr Bridges said Ms Ardern has not been strong enough on the matter.

"This has been weak leadership and weak government. It's why we're seeing the Government coming apart at the seams, you know around two ministers in a couple of weeks, around a coalition where they can't get agreement on basic things, this is yet more evidence of something that could have been dealt with decisively and strongly but has been weak," Mr Bridges said.

The National Party leader says the axing of Meka Whaitiri is more slow, weak leadership leading to weak government. Source: 1 NEWS


Man, 25, charged with murder over death of eight-month-old girl in 2016

A man has been charged with the murder of an eight-month-old girl in Whanganui in 2016.

Police say the 25-year-old man appeared in Masterton District Court today and has been remanded in custody.

Bella Richardson died at a property in Whanganui on 7 November 2016.

Police say the accused was known but not related to her.

Justice Source: 1 NEWS

Watch: Can you help? Black car takes off from West Auckland suburb after driver tries to grab woman

Police have released footage in the hopes it will help them find a man who grab a woman in West Auckland while she was walking down a street at night last week.

Detective Elizabeth Willis says the victim was walking towards Riversdale Road in Avondale on September 11 when she was followed by a man driving a black sedan between 8pm and 9:30pm.

The man, described as being possibly Māori or Pacific Island descent, in his 30s and around 175cm tall, yelled out to the victim before proceeding to park his car on Riversdale Road.

As the woman walked past, the suspect got out of his vehicle and grabbed her from behind but the victim managed to escape and hide until the man left the scene.

"This was a particularly frightening experience for the victim and we are very keen to hear from anyone who may have witnessed the incident or seen other suspicious behaviour in the area," Detective Willis said.

"If you have seen a vehicle or person matching this description behaving suspiciously, please call us immediately, even the smallest piece of information may prove valuable to help ensure this man is held to account for his actions."

People with information can contact Detective Willis from Avondale Police on (09) 820 5776 or anonymously provide information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Police are hunting the man who was driving the car in Avondale, followed the woman and grabbed her from behind. Source: facebook.com/AucklandDistrictPolice