Fran O’Sullivan on Judith Collins

Fran O’Sullivan looks at Judith Collins in yesterday’s Herald:

[I]t’s a reasonable bet that with just one arched lift of an eyebrow and her trademark lip curl this Cabinet minister would have no difficulty conveying to her colleagues (and Opposition politicians for that matter) what she really thinks on issues even before she sails forth with a cutting verbal putdown.

Dame Jenny Shipley – who had the moxie to orchestrate a bloodless coup against Prime Minister Jim Bolger when she was out of New Zealand – would have run Collins close when it comes to sheer political stealth.

But as Collins yet again demonstrated this week, her “take no prisoners” style is far more dangerous when it comes to gaining political scalps than that of any other Kiwi politician in Parliament today. NZ First’s Winston Peters tries it on. But Peters has lost the fire of old. John Key can be cutting. But Key tends to be sportive in his delivery rather than deadly. He’s still the politician who likes to be liked.

Labour has plenty of firepower. But much of it is lined up behind leader David Shearer rather than in the front row.

All of this is by way of asking whether Collins has what it takes to be National’s next leader.

This week Judith Collins did something that was difficult politically, but nonetheless important. She went with her gut instinct and did what she believed was the right thing to do for the country. It is ?along, long time since we had a politician who was like that.

The National faithful like Collins. She plays them adroitly as is obvious at party conferences where she schmoozes with aplomb.

But where her biggest strengths lie are in her ability to stand her ground when she’s convinced she is right, as she has ably demonstrated with the Binnie report; her ability to politically manoeuvre opponents off the chess board with ruthless efficiency, as she showed with Judge and two other ACC directors; and the guts to demolish a Cabinet predecessor’s policy positions where she believes he has over-egged the legal response, as with former Justice Minister Simon Power.

So, it’s obvious that Collins is not frightened to make hard calls. To her, chewing out Justice Binnie was not a difficult thing to do.

And Binnie’s churlish reposnse was laughable..running the lines that Labour like to run against Judith Collins.

She may have been an “Auckland tax lawyer” as Binnie sniped in retaliation for the swipe at his own prowess, but Collins also served as president of the Auckland District Law Society and vice-president of the New Zealand Law Society before entering politics – two positions with far more experience and more cachet that Binnie accorded her.

Binnie response just marked him and his report as hopelessly compromised.

This is Collins’ biggest political call to date. She has raised the stakes hugely.

There has been obvious suspicion that her actions in this affair were guided by the belief that Bain does not deserve compensation.

But the quality of the Fisher critique ought to persuade her critics that she was justified in asking for a review of the Binnie report.

There remain issues as to whether at the process level Bain has been treated fairly.

Collins’ real test will come with the quality of the final Cabinet decision-making. It’s a high-stakes game that she must win if she’s to be National’s next leader.

Well…to be blunt…who else is there? Steven Joyce? Possibly, but then he is said to be pushing for David Carter to be the next speaker…in order to pander to the South Island and Bill English’s mob and to get Nick Smith back into cabinet…that is for another post, but the fact that he thinks this is a good idea shows just how out of touch with the party he has become.

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