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



'My god she can run' - woman at centre of hilarious Kawakawa dog escape video says Lily is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame

A Bay of Islands woman told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp she is "never going to live this down" after footage of her rescue dog Lily dragging a bakery's flag down the main street of Kawakawa went viral around the globe.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 500,000 times since it was posted to Facebook last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the Basset Hound received a fright and bolted despite being tied to a large Coca-Cola flag forcing Lucie to give chase.

"For an animal with just little legs, my god she can run," Lucie told Seven Sharp.

Lily, Lucie and the rogue flag brought Kawakawa's State Highway 1 strip to a standstill, the whole escapade captured on CCTV.

"My partner owns a local CCTV company I got to the office and I told him what had happened.

"He didn't tell me he'd done it, but he edited footage and put the music on and uploaded it to Facebook and tagged me in it.

"I knew it was trouble when basically by the time we'd gone to bed last night it had hit 100,000 views," Lucie said.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

Lucie does see the funny side of events however.

"They say every dog has their day, so I guess Lily is enjoying her 15 mins of fame." 

Lily made a run for it when owner Lucie Green stopped at a shop in the Northland town. Source: Seven Sharp

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Tracking down New Plymouth youth MP candidates after Andrew Little's 'hip' appeal

Labour MP Andrew Little released a tongue in cheek video encouraging young people from New Plymouth to get involved in politics today.

The video inspired TVNZ1's Seven Sharp to travel to Mr Little's old school to find the perfect candidate for its new youth MP.

Judge for yourself if New Plymouth Boys' High students Thomas Foy and Jarrod Wilson have what it takes in the video above.

Tamati Rimene-Sproat is on the case after the Labour MP's piece of political theatre. Source: Seven Sharp

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Watch: Take a tour inside Kate Sheppard’s former house where suffragists worked to get women the right to vote

Suffragist Kate Sheppard's old house in Christchurch goes up for auction next month - so Seven Sharp host Hilary Barry took a tour.

Ms Sheppard was instrumental in gaining New Zealand women the right to vote in 1893. She carried out important work for the suffrage movement in the house during the late 19th Century.

Today saw celebrations around the country marking 125 years since women gained the right to vote in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern has indicated the Government is interested in buying the house for the nation. It's expected to fetch in excess of $3 million when it goes under the hammer on October 17.

Hilary Barry met with the home's current owner Julia Burbury who showed her around the dwelling set on one acre of gardens.

The house has a category one heritage listing.

The piece of New Zealand history in Christchurch, worth more than $3 million, is up for auction. Source: Seven Sharp


Mum distraught as son turned away from Hutt Valley High School because he didn't have permanent address

Being homeless has become an obstacle for one mother wanting to give her child an education.

Helen Taitapanui and her son were turned away from Hutt Valley High School last week because they don't have a permanent residential address.

Ms Taitapanui, is currently battling cancer and lives in a motel with her teenage son while they wait for a permanent home.

"We've got to be glad that we've got that when we know that a lot of our families are out there living in cars," Ms Taitapanui told 1 NEWS.

However, this was a problem when she tried to enrol her son at a local school.

"The response was it's against their policy to register children living out of a motel. you had to have a residential address," Ms Taitapanui said.

She complained to the Ministry of Education and shortly after Hutt Valley High School reversed its decision.

Ms Taitapanui says her son's excited about going back to school.

"I know once he steps back into the realm of education he'll be well and truly away."

She hopes by speaking out, another unnecessary obstacle will be removed for the homeless.

Being homeless threw up an unexpected obstacle for a mum wanting to educate her child. Source: 1 NEWS