Friday, July 24, 2020

Karl Du Fresne: Collins must be well pleased

Two leading figures on the left have given Judith Collins the most ringing endorsement imaginable.

Matt McCarten and Nicky Hager have paid the new National Party leader a generous compliment by unleashing hyperbolic attacks on her. They wouldn’t have bothered to do this unless they were worried about the threat she poses to Labour and the Greens.

McCarten, purportedly one of the left’s smartest strategists, acknowledges that Collins has been one of National’s most effective MPs and warns that Labour shouldn’t under-estimate her. But though he says the vote gap between Labour and National will narrow, he baldly asserts that Collins will fail. He doesn’t mount a very convincing case for this other than to insist that voters will reject her supposedly divisive style of politics, preferring the “near flawless” leadership of Jacinda Ardern (whom most New Zealanders, according to McCarten, love and respect). 

McCarten’s tone suggests he’s writing more out of hope than conviction. But if there’s a faint whiff of fear in McCarten’s piece, it’s even more palpable in Hager’s polemic. He purports to come up with five reasons why Collins won’t be prime minister, most of them based around rehashed claims made in his book Dirty Politics six years ago. Six years is a very long time in politics and Hager may be making a big mistake assuming that the Judith Collins of 2020 didn’t learn anything from the lessons of 2014. Like McCarten, he sounds as if he’s desperately trying to convince himself of her unelectability. 

Another leftist commentator showing signs of alarm is Gordon Campbell, who complains bitterly about the commentariat’s “love affair” with Collins. Campbell apparently thinks it outrageous that the media, having been infatuated with Ardern since 2017, is suddenly paying attention to another formidable female politician. But the reason Collins excites interest is that she’s not just another bland, risk-averse National Party leader seeking the safety of the middle ground and pointlessly trying to court the left-leaning media.  

She’s a natural disrupter, which is why the left is so vehemently gunning for her. They would have been comfortable with a colourless consensus politician in the mould of Todd Muller, Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams, none of whom would have been subjected to the furious attacks now being directed at Collins. 

That’s all the vindication she needs. She must be well pleased.

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at


twr said...

Maybe after decades of mostly colourless consensus politicians running National it's what they've come to expect. They ruthlessly vilified Brash who was the only one with a spine since Muldoon.

Dave Witherow said...

Spot on comment. The right-thinking clones sure are worried by Collins.
And two months is a long time in politics these days - never mind six years.
Saint Jackinta will be feeling the heat, and the election has suddenly become a lot more interesting.

Unknown said...

Since this article was published we have news of a new Newshub-Reid Research poll, which shows support for National at 25% eight weeks out from the election. At this point in 2017 support for Labour was even less! We know what happened. During this survey period we have had a selection of political disasters, mainly featuring National MPs. Voters seem still blinded by stardust. I can think of only one of the Labour 2017 policies which has been delivered - on 18 March 2020. Hardly cause for celebration let alone adulation. Time for a reality check.