Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Barry Soper: National should have picked Collins two years ago

National MPs did what they should have done on February 27, 2018. They elected Judith Collins as their leader. Had they done so back then they most likely wouldn't have been in the bind they find themselves in just two months out from the election.

Collins was politically the best of the bunch who put their hands up after Bill English called it quits. Instead, they settled on Simon Bridges who, among many other things, never lived down his unusual, grating accent. The public never connected with him even though before the Covid calamity almost half of them connected with the National Party.

Jacinda Ardern was anointed the Covid conqueror and a fearful public opinion got behind her. Less than two months ago, the wooden Todd Muller clearly thought he was the answer to National's woes and made his desperate move against Bridges with his sidekick Nikki Kaye in train. She obviously thought she was a match for Ardern having beaten her twice in the Auckland Central seat and the PM's brain bruise will still give her headaches.

But Muller simply wasn't up to it and Kaye's colleagues decided neither was she.

They rightly decided on Crusher Collins even though the commonly used moniker was never deserved given that as Police Minister she never crushed a boy racer's car. But when she smirks and raises an eyebrow on her unfurrowed brow, you know she means business.

From next week in Parliament's bear pit, she's only got three weeks before they rise for the election to slice the air with iron maiden's tongue at the young woman whose job she has designs on. If you have any doubts about her ability to get cut through, ask Kiwibuild's Phil Stoner Twyford what it's like to be eviscerated by Judith Collins.

She is nothing like Ardern who constantly espouses kindness and gender and ethnic equality. Think about Collins' recent reaction to the new shadow Cabinet line-up under Muller and the criticism he received for not having any Maori in the top twelve.

Leaving no-one in any doubt she said she was sick of being demonised for her ethnicity, shooting a barb at reporters asking if there was something wrong with being white.

Collins is polarising, there's no doubt about that, but she's also popular with National's rank and file and it's that rump that she'll be trying to kick back into the party's pre Covid camp.

The change has just turned the lights on, ensuring the seats will now be filled for those election debates - let's do this.

Barry Soper, the political editor of Newstalk ZB, is one of the country’s most experienced political broadcast journalists and the longest-serving member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

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