Collins has a daunting challenge – exacerbated by resignations – but our MMP system is among the favourable factors

Back from  the dead?   National  backbenchers,  particularly  those  down the party  list, might  be  breathing   again— now  that    Judith  Collins  has taken   control, after the  political  trauma  of the past few  weeks.

Party  stalwarts,  some of whom had been drifting  off  to ACT  party,  are  rallying  again.  Collins’ ascension  has  come   just  in  time.

Even so,    she  faces  a  daunting   challenge.  Only  60    days  to  dispose of  the  wreckage,  fire up her team,  and  win  back  disenchanted   supporters.  No  time  for  the  inquest  into   what had  gone  wrong (though  questions  still reverberate   about   the panic   the  caucus   must have been in   when it  chose  Todd  Muller).

Collins,  reassuringly,  brings  vast experience  to the  task,  and  she  immediately  revived  caucus  morale   by  insisting   they  stand   with her  at  the  podium  as  she took  the  reins  on  Tuesday  night.

That  sense of renewed  unity   took  a  dent  almost  immediately  as   first  Nikki  Kaye  and then  Amy Adams  decided  to  quit  Parliament.  Both  were   close  to   Todd  Muller  and  were  disconcerted    by  his  sudden   departure.

It is unclear whether  internal  party  polling   shows that – even with  Collins  at the helm – National  has  little hope of  regaining  the Treasury  benches.  But  Kaye  and Adams, in  leaving now, have put another hurdle in Collins’ campaign path.

Only   the  bluest, dyed-in-the-wool  loyalists  are  convinced  Collins can  win  on  September  19,    given  the   long   lead  Labour  enjoys  in  opinion  polls.  Jacindamania is  so  powerfully  embedded  in  the  electorate   that  it  seems  impossible  National  could   get  within a bull’s  roar  of  the  Treasury benches.

Yet,  some  National  strategists   believe    there   are  vulnerabilities  within the coalition   which a  politician  as  astute  as  Collins    can  exploit.    They  see  this   election  shaping   as  the    way  the  Crusaders  maintain their  superiority  in Super Rugby,  by  exerting  all the  pressure  in  the final  quarter of  each game.

Two   factors    could  work  in Collins’  favour.    The first  is  the  MMP  system  itself:  no political  party  has  ever gained  50%  of the  party  vote  since   this  form  of  proportional representation was introduced.

And  history  shows  the  electorate  always   deals  severely    with any of the  minor parties  which  join a  coalition  government   (think of the Alliance, United  Future and the  Maori Party).

NZ   First   has  been  consistently  polling  below  the  5%   threshold   and  the  Greens  so  close  to  it that  they  need  to   pull  votes  from   Labour  itself  to   get across  the  line – not  an easy  task when Ardern’s popularity   has been the  dominant  factor  in  current  NZ  politics.

NZ  First,  in  the  weeks  running  up  to  the election,  may face   unpleasant headlines  as  the case  being  brought  by the Serious Fraud Office  against  the financial manoeuvres  of the  NZ  First Foundation  is  aired  in  court.

And  the  Greens   risk   a  backlash   by  proposing new   taxes,  not   just the  wealth  tax,   but  the  new  rubbish  tax  which Conservation Minister  Eugenie  Sage  announced this week and could  cost  households   an extra $2bn a  year.   NZ  electors  have  always shown  themselves to  be  averse  to politicians   who  come  up  with   new  tax  ideas—and in  the current  economic  environment,  stripping  more  from  the  hard-earned  wages  of  individuals  won’t be popular.

On   her  own  side of  the  political fence,  Collins    is  already  inspiring  a   fresh  wave of  enthusiasm  among  supporters.  A  fundraiser   in  Auckland  is  said to  have  raised   an  eye-watering amount for  the party.

In  removing  Michael  Woodhouse   as   the  party’s  health  spokesman,  Collins  exerted   the  kind  of  discipline  other   strong  leaders  do,  a  contrast  to   the   “kindness and  compassion”  Ardern  has   displayed    towards   incompetence   among  several of her ministers.

The  reality   is  that  National  needs  to   front the  electorate   with  a  strong  and effective  policy  to  rebuild  the  economy.    Collins,   with  all   her  varied strengths,   cannot   do  it  on her own,  and  the  caucus behind her    has  not been conspicuous  in  promulgating  the fresh  ideas    which will inspire   voters.

There  has  been  little   focus  inside   National,  as  the  impact  of  the  Covid-19 pandemic  has devastated  the global  economy,  on how  the government  needs to  apply  powerful  stimulus to  the  key  export industries,  not only  the  food-producing sector,  but  those especially in the technology sector,  on     which  NZ  is  increasingly  dependent.

In the era  when   climate   change  has  led to  “sustainability”  becoming the  goal  of  activists of all  stripes, particularly the Greens,  NZ  needs   something  more.   Judith  Collins  has  to find that  policy  formula—  and  at  the  same   time   convince  the electorate  she  can make it work.

For long enough   Collins has  revelled  in   being  the   “crusher”.   Now she has to show    she  can be a  builder  as  well – dare we suggest capable of making us plusher?

3 thoughts on “Collins has a daunting challenge – exacerbated by resignations – but our MMP system is among the favourable factors

  1. Ms Collins will not be bullied by the media like Bridges and Muller were. I am looking forward to her staring down most of our impartial media including Comrade Dann, the contemptible Tova O’Brien, Ryan Bridges and John Campbell both hand wringing leftists. I don’t think National can win the election but Judith Collins should stem the flow of votes from disgruntled National supporters who would have gone for ACT or Winston First.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. All political parties suck and the latest debacle reaffirms it – bring back FTP and give independents a look in. Comrade Ardern and her hacks need to go.


  3. Collins will get a large honeymoon bounce which will carry through to the electon giving many voters cause for thought. “Perhaps she can win” driving a very high turnout from the traditional centre right which may just carry the day


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