Matthew Hooton discusses the rehabilitation of Judith Collins.
Right now, if some personal tragedy were to befall Mr Key, there would be a period of shock and mourning and the prime ministership would pass to one of his close lieutenants, most probably his deputy Bill English. Were there a more managed transition over the next four or five years, with Mr Key still popular, incoming Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett, Energy and Transport Minister Simon Bridges or even Justice Minister Amy Adams would be contenders. A premium would be placed on a record of loyalty to the current regime. (Despite the big-noting of his associates, Steven Joyce would never have the numbers.)
Ms Collins is not preparing for those circumstances. Her moment comes if and when the public develops fatigue with Mr Key’s blancmange style of politics and perceives his government’s lack of a serious reform programme will only ever deliver slow relative economic decline, out of the first world and into the second.
Steve Joyce hasn’t a chance, and despite the claims of Hooton, Garner and others neither does Paula Bennett. I’m prepared to put money on that…the only rider on that is the feeling that caucus might want someone to take one for the team in the chook and in that case Paula Bennett will qualify ably in that regard.
Over the past year, Ms Collins has proven herself a highly astute political player. To force her return to government, she adopted the doctrine that “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil” – a strategy that seldom fails with the risk-averse poll-driven fruitcakes running Mr Key’s government. Ms Collins pursued the strategy with aplomb, never crossing the line into outright sabotage.
Ms Collins also made clear to her supporters on the right of the party, in the Auckland business community and among the law-and-order brigade that she was more one of them than the wets and corporate-welfarists who currently dominate Mr Key’s circle.
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