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.

Leave a comment

21 Comments

  1. Mike C

     /  28th September 2015

    Cameron Slater has just heralded the nigh of Judith Collins Political Career.

    Well done Slater 🙂

    Reply
  2. Judith Collins is at least John Key’s intellectual peer, and maybe superior. She is a real thinker from a political point of view, and while not one of the most loveable politicians, she has a steely resolve to see the direction of Government Policy moving towards the strategy that is best for New Zealand. I don’t believe Slater’s claim of a close relationship with her, nor do I believe he can influence her decisions. She is her own person and has a firm grasp of pragmatic truth in the New Zealand political scene. John Key knows this, and I predict her move to the front row before the next election. Watch this space.

    Reply
    • I’ve got a fair amount of respect for Collins. It had looked like she might have distanced herself from Slater but the last couple of days seems to have ruled that out.

      While seen as closely connected to Slater – whether she is or not – I don’t think she has a chance of leading National or the country.

      Before the last couple of days i rated her chances of getting back into Cabinet, probably this year. But I don’t think this (her column, Politik interview and Slater’s supporting posts) will help her chances.

      Reply
      • Yes, Pete you may be right , but then I could be too. Time will tell. In the meantime, John Key who I think has a lot to offer needs to sharpen up his act, and not worry about oily whales.

        Reply
    • Mike C

       /  28th September 2015

      @bj

      You have gotta be kidding. LOL.

      Slater and Collins are just not seen as being trustworthy or decent and normal enough to ever be able to get their sweaty paws on Government power.

      THANK GOD !!! 🙂

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  28th September 2015

      Really? I think you over-estimate Collins and under-estimate Key, both substantially. Key has rewritten the MMP politics manual, turned National from a hopeless minority into a majority, introduced quite radical social reforms and seems likely to win four consecutive terms. I don’t imagine his party will be keen to discard all that on the basis of a bit of loud-mouthing from Collins. In comparison she has “target” written all over her while the more mud the Left throw at Key the more they find themselves buried in it.

      Reply
      • jamie

         /  29th September 2015

        Key is self-evidently the most skilled political operator in the country.

        Collins is self-evidently not.

        Reply
  3. Mike, I think you have it wrong, but then again I have no commitment to any politician and have no axe to grind, I’m a long term observer and believe nobody but what my brain tells me to believe.

    Reply
  4. Collins should have been booted over the Oravida affair. It was obvious she used her position to further her husbands, and by association, her own financial gain. Her refusal to name her ‘very close friend’ should have been enough on it’s own. Then, Collins, as Minister of Justice (I repeat. Minister. of. Justice.) gave the personal details of a public servant to Slater which resulted in death threats against him and his family, which, if I remember correctly, remained on Slaters blog until he was spoken to police. So if she does happen to reach the pinnacle, will she use her position as the minister holding the intelligence portfolio, for instance, GCSB, in a fit of pique against an opponent? She obviously doesn’t understand the responcibilities associated with powerful positions.
    Her association with Slater, is now and always will be, a burden. Toxic? NSS

    Reply
    • She absolutely does understand the responsibilities associated with powerful positions. It’s her callous disregard for them that is the problem for a few people.

      She also understands that the responsibilities associated with powerful positions and the attendant nuances and subtleties of honesty and ethics are not understood by many from whom she would gain support. Or cherished in the same way by them as by herself.

      Reply
    • Mike C

       /  28th September 2015

      @Rob

      Not just Orivida 🙂

      Judith Collins and her husband also have stakes in a buried kauri business here in New Zealand … that is being sold to China.

      Reply
  5. traveller

     /  28th September 2015

    It’s really validated those of you here who believed all along she was in league with Slater and his most unsubtle advancing of her interests.

    Machiavelli would turn in his grave.

    “You need both cunning and strength to survive in the political wilderness. Strength alone isn’t enough”

    “If you win, people will judge the methods you used to win as appropriate. If you lose, they will despise both you and your means”

    Reply
  6. ‘The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”
    Niccolo Machiavelli

    Reply
  7. jaspa

     /  28th September 2015

    I am highly suspicious of these letters – I don’t see any comments popping up on other blogs along similar lines, as you would expect if it were becoming as widespread as he makes out.

    I cannot see National winning the next election with Judith Collins as leader, and I wouldn’t think many of them can either. This if just more bluff and bluster from Slater. If he really wanted to help Judith he would stay well away from her. And if he is getting paid, well, I think Judith is wasting her money.

    Reply
    • traveller

       /  29th September 2015

      Somehow I doubt Judith is paying him. He owed her big time after she was depicted as part of his Dirty Politics alliance and able to be influenced by him. I’m picking Slater offered to do his bit to atone. Sadly for her, like everything he does these days, his hamfisted operation is more Goon Show than incisive politicking. Has he learned nothing from the master – Mr (Stealth) Hager?

      Reply
  8. I don’t believe in coincidences.

    Reply

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