Hooton on Collins’ revival and leadership contenders

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.

Like Nikki Kaye for example.

At the same time, Ms Collins worked hard to widen her political appeal, with her Sunday Star-Times column, appearances with Paul Henry and features in lifestyle magazines.  She learned from Mr Key and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern that substance in such contexts is completely unnecessary: what’s sought is a nice smile, a friendly laugh and a touch of glamour.  On that note, Ms Ardern will come to regret the nice things she said about Ms Collins when they were recently featured having lunch together in Auckland’s Metro magazine.  How can Labour now demonise Ms Collins when she has the Jacinda seal of approval?

Easy, they are hypocrites.

Mr Key’s hand was also forced by another emerging problem.  In his inquiry into Ms Collins, High Court Judge Lester Chisholm found no evidence she had systematically tried to undermine Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley, the allegation that finally caused her departure from the government in 2014.

As we head toward 2016, senior ministers suspect the Auditor-General will soon throw the book at Foreign Minister Murray McCully over the Saudi sheep scandal but Mr Key may be unable for internal political reasons to sack him.  Mr Key could hardly deny Ms Collins her return to government having been cleared but then decline to act against Mr McCully when he has not.  The gender optics of such differential treatment would be awful.

The Saudi deal beggars belief. Millions of dollars for nothing.

But the idea of a future Collins leadership is no longer as fanciful as it was 15 months ago, when the media mob so disgracefully drove her from office relying on the unsubstantiated testimony of a blogger.

It wasn’t even testimony it was a hacked and stolen email, which Judith Collins wasn’t even a party to. When the facts of the hack come out there is going to be some explaining to do from the media. I will certainly be asking the hard questions.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.