Garner on next National leader

Duncan Garner ponders on who may be National’s next leader. He rules out Judith Collins, saying her party has lost faith and trust in her (she could earn that back but it will take time, effort and care).

PAULA BENNETT

She’s emerged from the Collins rubble to be the frontrunner. She’s handled everything Labour has thrown at her and sent it back with interest.

JONATHAN COLEMAN

The Health Minister is ambitious and is starting to get a bigger profile – and he likes the idea that he’s being spoken about as a potential leader. He will need to show more charisma and reach out more.

AMY ADAMS

Depending on who you speak to in the National Party she’s either a leader in waiting or someone you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

SIMON BRIDGES

He has long been discussed as a future National leader and that will probably mean it will never happen. On TV and radio he sucks the life out of the universe but he’s still very capable and knows his subject.

TODD MULLER

I got to know Muller when he was a Boy Friday in  Jim Bolger’s office in 1996. A thoroughly smart and likeable bloke, Muller bleeds blue and has been earmarked for higher office from an early age. He has genuine private sector experience and has wisely kept his head down  in his first term as an MP.

That’s about how many ex-leaders Labour has.

More details: Duncan Garner: Forget Crusher, Paula Bennett is National’s next leader

 

 

Comeback Collins

Judith Collins was down and shown the way out of Parliament last year – sent to the office known as the departure lounge. But she has demonstrated resolve and determination, and will be back in Cabinet next week.

Tracy Watkins at Stuff writes about this in Judith Collins – ‘exonerated, vindicated’ and on the comeback trail:

With the political comeback from the brink complete, Judith Collins is in no mood to waste the opportunity.

Last year Collins was relentlessly hounded over her association with Oravida in a trip to China, to the extent that I think both Phil Goff and Winston Peters jetted to China to try to find dirt. Some aspects of that didn’t look flash for Collins but no smoking gun was found.

Then she became embroiled in the ‘Dirty Politics’ election campaign distraction due to her friendship and association with Camerson Slater, involving a campaign of attack on the Serious Fraud Office head.

That was too close for John Key that close to an election so Collins resigned. But a later inquiry there was “no probative evidence that Ms Collins undermined or attempted to undermine Mr Feeley”.

What Collins was accused of doing was undermining the then head of the Serious Fraud Office, Adam Feeley, in collusion with Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater.

An inquiry by retired High Court judge Lester Chisholm later found there was “no probative evidence that Ms Collins undermined or attempted to undermine Mr Feeley”.

Chisholm concluded: “The implication that she was so involved is untenable.”

Chisholm trawled through six years worth of Collins’ emails and phone records.

It was, says Collins, an incredibly invasive process.

“Not only going through my work emails, and my phone records, but all my personal emails, my computers… I had to hand in my passwords, everything.”

The upshot of all that, says Collins, is that she feels “pretty damn vindicated, frankly”.

The blame was mostly put on Slater, who admitted ’embellish’ statements in private emails:

He attacked the media saying it used “private banter” in emails as if it were court documents and denied he was responsible for Collin’s downfall with his email.

“I can say whatever I want to in private emails,” he said.

He didn’t regret writing the email, saying he “doesn’t regret anything he writes”.

He said the sentence in the email “Collins is gunning for Feeley” wasn’t a lie but “embellishing is a good word.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10442284/Judith-Collins-resigns-says-shes-a-victim

Slater, lies, embellished banter, whatever.

Slater had quickly become politically toxic, especially for Collins. For her to revive her political career she needed to at least publicly and politically distance herself from Slater. She appears to have successfully managed this.

So a mixture of doing what was necessary to prove she could be relied on and trusted back in Cabinet, along with her reputation (ignoring the left wing wailing) of being a strong and capable Minister, has resulted in John Key bringing Collins back into Cabinet.

Next week Collins will be Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections, the latter a portfolio desperately needing a strong hand and some serious tidying up after the Serco Mt Eden debacle.

Watkins writes an interesting profile of Collins.

“When I was a little girl, I remember my mother saying to me – I was about eight – she said ‘you’re so determined Judith’. And she was saying it as though it was a bad thing. I guess that’s it. I’m just determined.”

Obviously determined.

Husband David Wong-Tung probably took it harder, Collins admits. But they’ve been through tougher things as a couple. Wong-Tung is half-Samoan, and that caused heartache for the dairy farmer’s daughter and her new boyfriend back in the day.

“My father and some of my family were opposed to a mixed-race marriage, so we had six years of my father being extraordinarily unhelpful and very difficult.”

That’s very sad. It was back in the late seventies, early eighties. Wong-Tung had migrated to New Zealand from Samoa as a child.

Back to being determined.

There was no way she was going to quit over the allegations that forced her resignation from Cabinet in the white hot heat of the election campaign last year.

“Never. Never. Definitely not,” says Collins.

And so she is back

 – apparently over the objections of some of her Cabinet colleagues, though they publicly deny that. Does that mean she has scores to settle maybe?

“Never,” laughs Collins.

“Can’t be bothered. It’s like, why? Why bother? Just get on and do the job.”

That’s quite different to what Slaster said on her resignation from Cabinet last year:

Slater was then asked what he would do about Collins’ resignation. He said: “I always give back double” and “Judith always gives back double.”

http://www.interest.co.nz/news/71717/judith-collins-resigns-after-revelation-slater-email-saying-she-was-gunning-feeley

More banter embellishment perhaps. There’s been no sign of revenge (from Collins) over the last eighteen months, just determination to succeed again.

But isn’t that the legend she’s cultivated? Crusher Collins, hard as nails?

Nah, that’s not even very real, says Collins.

“I’ve encouraged all that just for fun, really. I’ve got a very wicked sense of humour and sometimes I just get a bit carried away with it.”

And besides, the only person whose opinion she has to worry about is the prime minister. It’s his call, and his alone, says Collins.

His call has been to reinstate Collins as a Minister. If she’s learned well from her mistakes and from dealing with sustained attacks and remains determined she may be a better Cabinet Minister than before.

I’m certainly prepered to give her a chance to redeem herself.

She had been regarded as a potential leadership contender. There is no vacancy at present, and she will have her hands full sorting out Corrections and dealing with Police.

After Key? Paula Bennett is one who seems to be being groomed for a top role. Collins seems determined to rise again on her own merits.

Will this lead to a clash? Possibly.

But what about a Collins-Bennett or Bennett-Collins leadership team? Combining their contrasting, complimentary styles could be formidable.

And it could do the historically male-dominated National Party some good too.

 

Collins back in Cabinet

As expected Tim Groser is going to Washington as ambassador, leaving space in National’s Cabinet for a minor reshuffle.

Apart from a few swaps in portfolios the big talking point is the return of Judith Collins to ministerial responsibilities.

National’s reshuffle: Judith Collins returns, Tim Groser to leave before Christmas

• Trade Minister Tim Groser will leave Parliament before Christmas to become New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington.
• Paula Bennett picks up the Climate Change Issues portfolio from Mr Groser.
• Todd McClay becomes Minister of Trade. He retains his responsibilities for State Owned Enterprises, while handing over the Revenue portfolio to Michael Woodhouse.
• Having picked up the Revenue portfolio, Michael Woodhouse hands Police to Judith Collins. 
• Sam Lotu-Iiga picks up the Local Government portfolio from Paula Bennett, while handing Corrections to Ms Collins.

So Collins becomes Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections.

Corrections in particular was a real problem for National, and John Key obviously thinks Collins is up to sorting it out.

There were problems surrounding Collins last year that were a distraction leading into the election, but she was not found to have done any significant wrong.

So it’s reasonable to see her as the most capable and qualified next cab off the rank for a Cabinet position.

Grant Robertson has already brought uop some of last year’s distractions but if Labour go back to that it will look very petty.

Colins now has a chance to redeem herself. And deserves to be given a fair go to do that.

One thing she will no doubt be wary of is anything that could be seen to be any semblance of a leak from her ministries that gets published on Whale Oil. She can keep things to herself but she can’t stop what Cameron Slater says.

Her political future is largely in her hands, as long as she isn’t compromised by Slater. So if he wants Collins to succeed he will need to play his part by not being seen to compromise her position.

Key reshuffle

NZ herald reports Key plans surprise reshuffle. It doesn’t surprise me much.

Prime Minister John Key will spring a surprise reshuffle today rather than waiting until after the summer holidays, the Herald understands.

The departure of Trade Minister Tim Groser to become Ambassador to the United States will be announced today, although his actual resignation may be delayed until February, giving him the chance to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement he has spent the past seven years overseeing.

Mr Groser’s Trade portfolio is expected to go to Todd McClay, leaving Inland Revenue vacant.

It has been predicted that Groser woukld be leaving for months, and if that is announced then a reshuffle is neccesary rather than surprising.

All eyes will be on whether Judith Collins is returned to a ministerial post. The good money is on her getting back Corrections to sort out an accumulating mess with Serco.

I don’t know what Collins’ chances are of being reinstated as a minister or of being given Corrections, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sam Lotu-liga relieved of his Corrections portfolio, this has caused the Government major problems this year especially in relation to Serco.

Mr Key will face some serious questions about natural justice if she is not reinstated, even though Ms Collins is a divisive figure within the caucus and National Party.

She resigned from the Justice portfolio during the election when emails stolen from blogger Cameron Slater implicated her in a campaign to undermine the position of former Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley.

Ms Collins was cleared in an inquiry by a retired High Court judge more than a year ago – after Mr Key had picked his third-term Cabinet.

It may depend how much Collins has distanced herself from the now politically toxic Slater.

After Labour’s reshuffle last week this keeps some interest in end of year politics.

Judith Collins versus Phil Goff?

Audrey Young at NZ Herald suggests that a speech by Judith Colins to the ACT regional conference yesterday could be a pitch for a run at the Auckland mayoralty.

Judith Collins on the Auckland mayoralty

National MP Judith Collins gave a wide-ranging speech about the Auckland Council to an Act regional conference yesterday, which is bound to renew speculation she is considering standing for the Auckland mayoralty.

However she also appeared to make a pitch for Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett, whose name has also been associated with a mayoral run.

“Auckland desperately needs a leader, someone who can articulate their plan, implement it and be accountable for it,” she said.

She applauded the fact that Mr Barnett had repeatedly called for a transparent line-by-line review of council costs and planned capital expenditure.

“He is absolutely right…taxpayers deserve to know what public money is being spent cost effectively and efficiently…

“As a ratepayer, I just hope that we end up with a financially literate, decisive mayor who can work with central government and not someone who thinks that being Mayor of Auckland is all about themselves,” she said in the speech which was distributed by her press secretary.

Ms Collins said the current candidate of the right, Mark Thomas, isn’t good enough to take on Labour MP Phil who is standing for the mayoralty at the local body elections in October next year.

She told the conference she had been “quite hopeful” about Mr Goff until he had ruled out asset sales or reconfiguration.

Judith Collins told the Herald in November that she had no plans to stand for the Auckland mayoralty and that her focus was getting back into the cabinet.

That was last month. The local body elections are nearly a year away. Collins’ future in Parliament may be limited.

Collins versus Phil Goff would make it a fascinating contest.

 

 

Crush the Speaker?

Parliament has been degenerating into a bigger shambles than usual with long simmering Opposition disgruntlement threatening to boil over.

The Speaker has been under increased criticism. It’s an unenviable position, with David Carter struggling to keep the House under control.

He’s not the strongest of Speakers but he is also bearing the brunt of Opposition parties failing to make much impact.

Rather than up their own performances a few Opposition MPs would appear to be keen on crushing the Speaker.

Rather than look at their own incompetence they have increasingly taken to blaming the referee.

In MPs playing for yellow card Stacey Kirk suggests Carter may be moved on soon anyway…

But then what more exacting cue for an exit stage-left, with speculation pointing to a plum diplomatic posting for him – perhaps London or Ottawa – at the next Government reshuffle

…and explores the alternatives.

Maurice Williamson

Ask around Parliament and many would say Maurice Williamson would be a sound, and potentially hilarious, choice as Carter’s successor (which is likely why John Key won’t pick him).

A position best served to a senior politician on a downward trajectory – Williamson ticks that box.

Most importantly, his appointment could bring a return to what opposition MPs deem fundamental to Question Time: Ministers may actually be expected to answer questions.

A change of Opposition attitude and asking better questions might also help.

Gerry Brownlee

Perhaps it’s for that very reason Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee appears to be the front-runner, raising fears about what that might mean for political journalists.

He displays an obvious and growing disdain for the Press Gallery, overheard once lamenting how “bloody young” they are, and is a regular complainer about their actions in the corridors of power.

The Speaker’s job is to facilitate debate inb the house though. It’s the MPs job to feed the journalists with stories.

Other names murmured as outside chances include Anne Tolley and Jonathan Coleman. Both seem unlikely.

Anne Tolley

Tolley is determined to oversee massive reform of Child, Youth and Family, which has barely begun.

Jonathan Coleman

Coleman is hardly in the twilight of his career.

In fact, his name has also been thrown in conversations discussing the next Minister for Foreign Affairs. That at least makes more sense than Speaker, him already having proven himself in the understudy role of Defence Minister.

But the doctor appears to have hit his stride in Health and, while ambitious, Foreign Affairs is a tough ask for anyone with a young family.

Any other candidates for a new Speaker?

What about Judith Collins? In practical term she is probably in the twilight of her career, although I don’t know if she’s ready to accept that yet or not.

Crush the Speaker?

Judith Collins “focused on getting back into cabinet”

In a column in the weekend’s Sunday Star Times (shared with Phil Goff) Judith Collins wrote about the Auckland mayoralty. She bagged current mayor Len Brown, saying he “has not delivered for the people of wider Auckland”:

Judith Collins: Why I’m saying No to Mr Yes.

He’s had a lifetime of saying “yes” when occasionally he should have said, “no”.  He’s a nice, pleasant person who, unfortunately, has not delivered for the people of wider Auckland.

I knew  Brown was doomed when he stated that he was the second-most important person in New Zealand after the prime minister.  Really?  When Auckland’s mayor thinks his job is to have a foreign relations policy, you know it’s all over.  Where were his advisers? Who was saying, “Earth to Len?”

And so we come now to who will replace him.

First:

I give points to Mark Thomas who doesn’t have a huge profile – which really is needed to win.  At least  Thomas has had the courage to say he’s standing.  At least  he has had the courage not to pretend and insult the voters by playing coy.

She writes Thomas off and then targets Goff without naming him.

When I first stood for election during that terrible time (for National) of 2002, I was a lawyer.  I worked in a large law firm and I was chair of the Casino Control Authority.  As soon as I was selected for the then-marginal seat of Clevedon, I stood aside from both those positions.  I took unpaid leave from my full-time work.  That meant I really had skin in the game.

In those dark days of campaigning, when the winter election was called early, and our poll numbers dropped from over 30 per cent to just 20.7 per cent on election day, I can tell you that I had everything to win and nothing to lose.

Goff seems to be serious about standing for mayor but has indicated he won’t stand down as an MP unless he wins. So he would be campaigning for a local body election while being paid to be a Member of Parliament. That’s a cushy lark.

What will happen for this mayoral election?  Will  Brown stand? Possibly.  Will Phil Goff stand? Yes.  Will Thomas stand?  Yes.  Will others stand? Undoubtedly.  Does it matter? Yes, it does.

Auckland needs a mayor who is able to work with the Government. The mayor must be able to work with the Government to get the assistance with infrastructure that a growing Auckland needs.  The mayor should be focused on solutions for infrastructure, not on world leadership in the foreign affairs stakes.

Another swipe at Goff.

Auckland’s mayoralty needs, guts, determination, intelligence and presence. Who’s up for it?

Goff responded:

Aucklanders don’t need a lecture about what our city needs.

They deal every day with traffic congestion, unaffordable housing and the problems created when infrastructure investment fails to keep pace with population growth. It’s easy to be negative, to bicker and to be partisan.

But what people want is leadership. They want the elimination of waste, more efficiency and for the city and Government to get on with building an effective transport system. They want the benefits that they were promised under a Super City.

Auckland needs strong advocacy to make the Government understand that if the city does well, New Zealand as a whole will prosper.

Leadership is about presence, determination, integrity and commitment.  It’s also about having the skills to bring our community together and to work with Government so that we can realise our vision for a better Auckland.

It sounds like he’s campaigning already. It’s widely understood that Goff is standing and he doesn’t even give any token denials now.

But Collins’ comments provoked some speculation about her ambitions.

The Herald followed up on this and reports: No plans for run at Auckland mayor, says Judith Collins

National MP Judith Collins says she has no plans to stand for the Auckland mayoralty, saying her focus is getting back into cabinet.

Today, Ms Collins told the Herald the column “signalled her disappointment with the current mayor (Len Brown) and the fact as an Aucklander I feel very strongly we do need to have a good mayor to replace him.

“It is not a signal from me. I have always been focused on getting back into cabinet,” said Ms Collins.

She makes her ambitions fairly clear (for a politician).

Was she just stirring Goff up, knowing he had a commitment to respond?

Hide on Judith Collins’ leadership bid

Rodney Hide’s Sunday Herald column is on Judith Collins making a bid from the backbench for leadership of National – Crusher throwing her hat in the ring.

The tom-toms are beating and, as incredible as it may sound, around National Party campfires the leadership of New Zealand’s most popular Prime Minister is being questioned.

The questions are sparked by Judith Collins asking the oldest political question of them all: “Why not me?”

I’ll jump straight to Hide’s punch line.

Hers is an excellent plan on paper. To effect it Collins needs the support of her colleagues. But here’s where she falls short. She hasn’t any.

So she’s making a bid hoping that support will swing behind her.

Whether part of the plan or not Cameron Slater has been trying to drive an anti-Key pro-Collins movement, and that won’t help Collins in getting National Caucus support. It’s likely to severely hinder it.

Some in National are getting annoyed, especially those who are against any attempt to allow the people of New Zealand to make choices about our flag.

But would they support a leadership overthrow and potentially lose their hold on Government for that?

Hide’s final words:

National MPs know when they are on to a winner. They have learned from Labour it’s very easy to trash leaders but very hard to replace them.

It’s even harder to replace them with a winning leader.

Logie attacks Collins on domestic violence

Judith Collins created a lot of discussion with her comments opposing rapper Chris Brown coming to New Zealand to perform, calling him “just another wife-beater”.

Stuff: Chris Brown ‘just another wife-beater’

The former justice minister says singer Chris Brown is “just another wife-beater” and should not be allowed in to New Zealand because of his fame.

“The law is clear, he is technically barred from New Zealand…that is the law. Why do we bother having a law like that if we make exceptions for people just because they are rich and famous,” Judith Collins said.

“He can be rich, famous and sing back in his own country, as far as I am concerned. He is just another wife-beater, and there are so many wife-beaters who are rich or famous or in positions of power. There is no need for us to encourage it.”

Green MP and spokesperson on women Jan Logie told Collins not to make “any feminist comments” unless they were “prefaced with an apology for her previous harm”, a bizarre attempt to shut Collins up but not abnormal for Greens who think they have exclusive rights to speak on some topics.

Stuff: Judith Collins can’t talk about Chris Brown without making her own apologies:

Judith Collins seems to want us to think she is a champion of women’s rights and freedoms. She has been publicly outspoken about Chris Brown and the importance of recognising the problems we have in this country with domestic violence.

I am struggling with this new persona of Judith’s. As with Chris Brown and all abusers, I believe in the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption. Demonstrating rehabilitation though requires acknowledging past wrong doings and acknowledging the harm that you’ve done. I would also say it should mean not profiting off this. Judith has not, to my knowledge, acknowledged the harm she has done.

When Judith Collins had power, when she was the minister with a portfolio that could really make a difference for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, she used her power to remove protections for women and children and stop work that could have improved the justice system. The Family Court reforms that Judith Collins introduced were aimed at saving costs, not securing the safety of those at risk.

Judith Collins also stopped the Law Commission from working on alternative pre-trial and trial processes to improve the justice system failure for victims of sexual violence. When questioned about this she failed to offer a coherent, consistent answer.

This is the woman who as Justice Minister defended Maurice Williamson’s intervention to the police on behalf of a man accused of domestic violence. So I’m not going to be congratulating Judith Collins for any feminist comments she might make unless they’re prefaced with an apology for her previous harm. Without that, I think she’s just profiteering off the women she sacrificed when she had power.

I wonder if Logie will acknowledge the harm she has done with this tirade. She has never been in Government and seems to have no idea about the reality that Ministers can’t protect everyone all the time.

Collins has responded to this strongly with ‘I’m committed to protecting women and children from violence’.

(Oddly Stuff have filed this under entertainment/music).

What a disappointing personal attack Green MP Jan Logie has made on me.

Ms Logie will have heard me speak of the fact that while I was Minister of Justice, my cousin, Robyn, was murdered by her estranged second husband. I have always been, and remain, committed to doing all I can to protect women and children from the horror of domestic and sexual violence. This was a priority for me as Minister of Justice.

Before undertaking such a vicious and hurtful personal attack, it might have been useful for Jan to get her facts right. Here are just some examples of what I did to protect women and children during my time as minister:

* Increased the penalty for breaching a protection order from two years to three years;
* Broadened the definition of domestic violence to include financial and psychological abuse;
* Increased funding to grow and expand the safe@home programme to support families at risk of serious harm from domestic abuse to stay safely in their own homes;
* Created a new non-contact order to reduce the risk of unwanted contact between victims and offenders;
* Changed the Evidence Act to make appearing in court less traumatic for victims of sexual violence and child witnesses; and,
* Launched a new school-based pilot project as part of a focus on preventing sexual violence.

And the list goes on. It’s all there online for anyone to read.

The Family Court reforms of which she is so disparaging have been responsible for less aggression between former partners by encouraging and resulting in 70 percent of all care of children disputes being resolved without having to further inflame feelings. They have been a resounding success enabling the Family Court to spend more time on urgent cases involving violence.

I will continue to raise my concerns and share my opinions about perpetrators of domestic violence, like rapper Chris Brown. It is appalling for Ms Logie to make excuses for violent abusers just so she can take a personal swipe at me. Her behaviour minimises the harm caused to victims, survivors and their families. Ms Logie should be ashamed of herself.

Attacking a past Minister for not eliminating the impossible and trying to shut her up doesn’t look flash. And it makes Logie look like an apologist for Brown.

Logie doesn’t have exclusive rights to being “a champion of women’s rights and freedoms” – in fact she has been far from a champion on this. She sounds like some sort of sore loser.

Collins/Slater power play or just a fundraiser?

It looks like Judith Collins and Cameron Slater are making a power play. Or two independent coincidental power plays.

Collins has been quietly trying to rebuild her political career after being demoted as a Minister leading into last year’s election, in no small part due to her friendly relationship with Slater.

In the meantime Slater has been increasingly critical of John Key’s leadership with what has seemed like daily attacks and sometimes multiple attacks a day in post at Whale Oil.

Collins has had a weekly column alongside Phil Goff. Until now she has written about general topics. But yesterday: Judith Collins: Centre voters just the core, the action is on the fringes:

Elections are never won or lost in the centre. Yes, the vast number of voters are in the centre but they won’t bother to change their vote (much less get out to vote) unless they actually have something to vote for. Mobilising the centre to move to the left or to the right, is what wins elections. If you want to stay in power, then the centre is what keeps you there.

Politicians of all stripes need to be fearless, creative, interested, questioning and most of all listening to the electorate. Polling goes to show the centre doesn’t really say much and therein lies the danger of the echo chamber. But the edges of the electorate are always talking.

Winning elections is about engaging people and actually presenting an alternative. Galvanising the centre to be interested enough to vote will not happen simply by prescribing more of the same, albeit with a different coloured tie.

Goff responded:

Judith’s column this week is the opening shot in her campaign to succeed John Key as National’s leader.

It’s a not-so-subtle attack on the well-known fact that John Key is not driven by strong values but rather the results of weekly polling and focus groups.

Judith is inviting you to contrast Key’s soft positions with her post-demotion outspokenness on issues.

You can’t blame her for that or for her antagonism towards Key. After all, he sacked her and is refusing to put her back into Cabinet.

Goff could be perceptive. Or he could be mischievous. Or both.

Matthew Hooton responded to a comment on this at The Standard:

“when it came to Phil Goff’s reply, Collins probably got a lot more than she expected”

I reckon she got exactly what she expected (and hoped for) from Goff.

Today at Politik it looks like Collins is busy getting her message out there in JUDITH COLLINS SAYS IT’S TIME FOR POLITICIANS TO STAND FOR SOMETHING.

She set out a summary of her views in the Sunday Star Times and one Labour politician did have something to say.

Phil Goff said the column sounded like the start of her campaign to become National leader.

But in a lengthy interview with POLITIK she chose her words carefully and avoided any head on challenge to the National Party leadership who have shunned her since she resigned from Cabinet over her connections with Whaleoil.

Nevertheless her message is clear.

“It’s better to make a difference than to sit in Parliament and occupy a seat,” she said.

“You are actually elected to do something.

“If you don’t do something then get out of the way and let someone else do it.”

She worries that the general public all round the world is sick and tired of politicians who say just what they think the electorate wants them to say.

“Actually ultimately you are never going to get anything done unless you change the status quo and you can’t do that from a position of fear or a position of let’s not rock the boat.”

She is suspicious of focus groups.

“The problem with focus groups is that you are asking them a question; you are defining what they can talk about and what they are interested in and sometimes I think you have just got to stand for something.”

She says she doesn’t use focus groups but relies on knocking on doors and what people tell her in her electorate office.

“In my electorate there are probably quite a lot of people who aren’t necessarily National voters but what they like is if you are straight up with them.”

It’s often claimed that John Key is guided by focus groups

Face to face contact is important but it can be self selecting – only people who want to talk will talk – and they can adjust what they say to suit their audience.

There will be many who will scrutinise the comments here and in the Sunday Star Times column for signs of dissidence, for some hint that as Mr Goff claimed, she has begun her campaign for the party leadership.

But what she is saying is more general than that.

It looks more like the beginning of what  may be a long debate defining what the post-Key National Party might look like.

Meanwhile, coincidence or not, Slater has been continuing his campaign. Yesterday his anti-Key posts continued: Losing our Religion – A letter from a reader…to John Key

The letter may or may not have been from ‘a reader’, it can be hard to tell on Whale Oil what’s genuine and what’s part of the campaigning and what’s paid for commentary. Slater added his own comments:

I’m not sure he is listening…but his minions are reading. Maybe the message will get through, either that or we will soon see a series of posts on cat fancier, arts, travel and lifestyle blogger, David Farrar’s blog about the stunning achievements of a John Key led government in a bid to counter “negative” posts here.

I am no sycophant and will tell things as I see them or as my readers emails.

Things aren’t right within National, they have allowed a cult of personality to develop and those never end well.

More posts generally criticise National.

He has followed that up today with specific references to the Collins publicity, first on her Stuff column in Judith Collins on Corbyn, and winning the centre.

This is the quiet changing of religion that I speak of…people turning off and not bothering because politics has become shades of brown and as appetising as cardboar

People get tired of the same old view of politicians and eventually they seek a change, any change, so long as it is not who we have now. They certainly don’t subscribe to TINA…that is the false hope of incumbents.

TINA is There is No Alternative, seen as one reason for Key’s sustained popularity, but Slater has been trying to establish a meme that there is an alternative – from within National. I wonder who he thinks that should be. Note that for some time he has strongly criticised Bill English,  Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

Then later today he posted on the Politik interview with Collins – Collins expands her discussion on the centre. In agreeing with Collins he said:

She’s dead right about that and MMP has created a situation where seat warmers are the politicians of the day. If you have a look at Helen Clark’s legacy it is nothing but banal social policy. John Key’s legacy is shaping up to be not much better, with the prospect of the flag being retained that particular dream is in tatters.

And:

Straight shooters have always done well in New Zealand politics, and it is a shame that John Key has changed from that perception of a straight shooter to a perception that is much less than that.

And:

What is funny though is the left wing getting all excited that Judith Collins will attempt to do what they have failed thus far to achieve…topple John Key. They should be careful what they wish for, because I doubt such an event would go well for them and their union pals.

So it is easy to see this as a two pronged attack on Key by Collins and Slater.

What sort of support would Collins have in the National Caucus? I don’t know.

But one this is for certain – she has a whale sized millstone hanging around her neck.

Eighteen months ago a campaign like this from Slater may have been seen as a serious threat. But his political credibility has plummeted.

I think a Slater orchestrated leadership bid is unlikely to cause anything but trouble for Collins. Sure it may damage National, and Slater has been trying to do that since he fell out of favour. But His alternative is unlikely to be looked on favourably.

Something not covered in Collins’ column yesterday nor in her Politik interview was whether she was being invoiced by Slater for his advice and his Whale Oil campaigning. This could be as more a fundraiser for him than a serious leadership bid.

Anyone as knowledgeable about politics as Slater claims to be (he was praising his predictive abilities last week, see the poor me/clever me post LOSING YOUR RELIGION) would know that  Slater+anything is currently seen as toxic.

And the Slater attacks on National don’t even seem overly popular at Whale Oil. From his Saturday diss Hooton: ‘Thanks John, time to move along now’ he explains his TINA theories:

John Key is still popular because people still believe in the false premise of TINA (There Is No Alternative).

Logic suggests that TINA is not valid. If John Key were to be mowed down by a bus driver on Lambton Quay on Monday morning it is certain that there would indeed be a replacement. When he does finally step down or is knifed, or gets voted out there will be an alternative. There is always an alternative…whether or not an alternative is apparent depends entirely on the vision of the person stating TINA.

The belief that TINA is real…suggests these people think John Key is immortal and can reign forever…neither are true…politically or in reality. There is always an alternative.

But if you have a look at the upticks on the comments in LOSING YOUR RELIGION it seems clear his audience isn’t captivated or convinced by Slater’s campaign.

Note: I’ve done a few edits and additions to this in the half hour after posting.

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