Trotter on Collins and Key

In his weekly Stuff/Press column Chris Trotter writes Judith Collins a sop to National’s base.

What is National’s ‘base’? I expect that with close to 50% support continuing their base is quite diverse and broad.

Trotter makes a number of unsubstantiated claims.

Was John Key’s decision to stand down his Justice Minister, Judith Collins, critical to his 2014 election victory? The National Party was hemorrhaging votes as a result of the extraordinary revelations contained in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. Collins featured prominently in the book, making her, in the eyes of many, a symbol of all that was wrong with the National-led Government.

The bleeding ended abruptly when, pending the outcome of an investigation into yet another spate of allegations, the Prime Minister decided to stand Collins down.

The polls leading in to the last election don’t reflect Trotter’s claim that National was ‘haemorrhaging votes’ after Dirty Politics was launched and recovered after Collins stood down.

As shown in Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2014 closer to the opposite occurred, with if anything a lift in the polls after Dirty Politics (13 August) and a drop off after Collins stepped down into the election (30 August).

There were other significant things happening as well, like David Cunliffe’s campaign performance (note Labour’s poll slide), and probably more significant was the rise and fall of Kim Dotcom and Internet-Mana, including Dotcom’s ‘moment of truth in mid-September.

Does Trotter have access to some secret polls? Or is he making things up?

But, if the standing down of Judith Collins played an important part in securing Key his third term…

A big ‘IF’ about the importance of Collins in the election result.

…why bring her back into his Cabinet? In her new role as Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections, Collins is once again displaying all the headstrong and abrasive qualities that made her so unpopular during her first, controversial, stint in Key’s cabinet.

I think she was generally quite popular, except amongst Trotters far left, until Labour and Winston Peters decided to target her and try and bring her down.

I don’t see any obvious sign of major unpopularity now either, except at The Daily Blog and The Standard, and there’s few votes for National there.

What Trotter seems to struggle with, like many on the left (and right for that matter) is separating their own feelings from those of the general voting population.

Many political scientists would dismiss this question as naive. They would argue that Key brought Collins in from the cold in order to appease National’s “base”.

I expect that ‘many political scientists’ would think and argue a wide range of things and wouldn’t be confined to Trotter’s narrow band of thinking and assertions.

Collins has become the poster girl for a great many of the deeply conservative National Party voters living in rural and provincial New Zealand.

Has she? I don’t know how in touch Trotter is with the “many of the deeply conservative National Party voters living in rural and provincial New Zealand”. I doubt many of them frequent his favourite cafes and bars in Auckland.

Many of them also belong to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, a powerful lobby group committed to securing harsher penalties for criminal offending and a more Spartan regime for prison inmates.

How many Chris? Can you quantify this at all? Or are you guessing?

The accusation that Key has adopted a “Labour Lite” strategy for remaining in power strikes a very resonant chord with the party’s conservative base.

I see that at Kiwiblog and The Standard but I don’t think many of National’s ‘conservative base’ comment at either. I think those strongly anti-National are more likely to be Conservative or Mana Party supporters.

Indeed, it was almost certainly that back-bench intervention which persuaded Key to bring Collins back under the protective umbrella of collective cabinet responsibility.

Almost certainly that is a big guess too, and I doubt it’s accuracy.

Once Collins was cleared in the investigation into allegations made against her I think it was widely expected that Collins would be one of the first in line to be appointed to Cabinet in Key’s next reshuffle, and I think Key signalled this. It was not a surprise when she was reinstated.

National’s base doesn’t care. For rural and provincial conservatives, the tougher the prison regime, and the longer the prison sentence, the better they like it. There is deeply punitive streak running through these voters that is apparent not only in relation to crime and punishment, but also in their expectations of welfare and housing policy.

Sweeping generalisations like this looks like little more than another raft of baseless assertions.

Sure there will be some amongst National’s base, and amongst their rural and provincial supporters, who fit Trotter’s descriptions but I doubt he has any measure of how many. Half a dozen perpetually disgruntled Kiwiblog commenters does not a base make.

John Key, raised by a cosmopolitan Jewish mother in New Zealand’s second-largest city, and with years of residence in Singapore, London and New York, has little genuine affinity with National’s traditionalist base.

Key’s ongoing popularity suggests he has an affinity with quite a bit more than National’s traditionalist base – which is wider than rural and provincial, especially with extensive urbanisation over the past hundred years.

Judith Collins is his sour sop to the snarling Cerberus of social conservatism.

Collins is one of a diverse twenty or so Cabinet Ministers.

The sour and snarling seems to be from Trotter.

Leave a comment


  1. Pantsdownbrown

     /  23rd February 2016

    Trotter always writes well………….it’s just when you take in what he is saying that you realise his finger is closer to his ass then the country’s pulse.

    Key putting Collins on the backburner during the last election campaign no doubt shored up some of the vote but there were far bigger events that pushed the voters to National, for instance (in no particular order);

    *Cunliffe’s poor election campaign/ Matt McCarten disaster.
    *Keys popularity – especially on his nationwide road-show.
    *The economy/ Bill English in charge of the books.
    *Nicky Hager & Dirty politics – it was a one-sided hit job in an attempt to hijack an election and a great number of people didn’t like that.
    *The Dotcom – Harre – Mana Frankenstein monster/ circus.
    *Dotcoms lying regarding ‘The moment of truth’.

    • Mike C

       /  23rd February 2016


      Chris Trotter would be much better as a Fairy Tale Story Writer or perhaps a Gossip Columnist … than Political Commentator 🙂

  2. artcroft

     /  23rd February 2016

    Chris Trotter: proud owner of the wrong end of the stick.

  3. Mike C

     /  23rd February 2016

    I don’t think Judith Collins deserved to be reinstated to the front bench.

    She did not make forward change on any of her portfolios during her last tenure.

    As long as Collins is best friends with Slater … I’ll never accept she is a genuine National Party MP or that she is supportive of Prime Minister Key.


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