Judith Anne Collins, Member of Parliament for Papakura, former Minister of the Crown and National Party attack dog is on the hunt for the leadership of the National Party once more.
Ms Collins, known as Crusher for her promise to put the confiscated cars of boy racers into a crusher, is staging a renaissance in the National Party. Her revival as one of the key members of the party, pursuing a clear blue agenda has excited the conservative wing of National.
At 6% in the latest Colmar Brunton poll, she is only 1% point behind her boss and Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges. Mr Bridges has been wallowing at 7% in the polls and has been unable to gain any traction against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. At 6% she is even ahead of Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of New Zealand First, Winston Peters.
Ms Collins has time on her side. Barring a major scandal or highly improbable failure to pass a budget, it will be 2020 before an election is called. That gives her time to build up her support, have a think about the direction she would like to take the National should she launch a successful bid to roll Mr Bridges. Any Collins leadership is sure to take National to the right and see a harder line on crime and justice; a more aggressive approach in Parliament and a willingness to dish the dirt.
I anticipate that Ms Collins will place less emphasis on the environment, cannabis reform – despite it being linked to a lot of minor (and not so minor)crime – as well as social welfare, health and education. The latter based on her voting record, suggests she would support the revival of charter schools and tax cuts.
But Ms Collins also has baggage. Her co-operation with blogger Cameron Slater’s dishing the most grubby and smelly mud has not endeared her to the political purists or the New Zealand public in many respects. Her involvement in the Oravida scandal for which she was dismissed from her Ministerial portfolio’s for a period of time.
For now though Mr Bridges hangs onto his leadership of the National Party. He would be reluctant to surrender it because those who surrender the leadership of National or Labour, unless they have done it to support a more popular candidate like former Labour Leader Andrew Little did last year, are generally seen as being in the twilight of their Parliamentary careers. Mr Little’s three immediate predecessors Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe were all gone at the end of the Parliamentary term in which they surrendered the leadership.
So, as we settle in to watch this space, perhaps the bigger academic question to ask based on National and Simon Bridges fortunes, when Ms Collins will make her next move?