A number of incidents and media reports suggest that it hasn’t been a good week for Ministers Paula Bennett and Judith Collins.
There’s been suggestions and rumours that Bennett and Collins may be possible future Prime Ministers but there has been nothing of any real substance (other National MPs have also been suggested) and there is no indication that there will be a vacancy any time in the foreseeable future.
What Cameron Slater and Martyn Bradbury post does not necessarily have any relationship with reality.
Two ministers touted as heir apparent to John Key did themselves no favours this week, derailing spectacularly.
Not just a wheel coming off the track, but the carriage flipped on its side, smoke and flames kind of derailing.
The ongoing headlines around homelessness and a shortage of emergency housing for the most vulnerable Kiwis has plagued the minister for months.
Attempts to get back on the front foot haven’t worked and Bennett has been left drowning in a pool of kneejerk policy.
To add insult to injury, Key was comfortable throwing her under the bus when she got things wrong about the Ministry of Social Development’s flying squad accompanying the Salvation Army to offer help to homeless living in cars.
Bennett in particular has had a difficult time lately.
But it was Bennett’s mixed messages to the PM that really gave Labour’s Phil Twyford some free hits.
Last week Key told media that the MSD flying squad had taken an active role tracking down the homeless to see what support they needed.
He said those people approached by MSD and the Sallies had declined help.
But the Salvation Army said they turned down an offer by MSD to accompany them to the park where people are living in cars, as some people are very wary of Government officials.
Bennett went into crisis mode, explaining what she meant was that MSD had gone to help by taking phone calls to assist the Sallies.
This was an embarrassing blunder from Bennett who provided the muddled information to Key, meaning he had no qualms about throwing the mess back at the culprit.
This kind of public botch-up is a godsend for a relentless MP like Twyford, who spent all week asking Bennett why she wouldn’t apologise to the Sallies for jeopardising their relationship with the homeless.
While not linked to leadership contention Twyford is one of the few Labour MPs causing real problems for the Government.
Even National Party sources have confirmed there’s little internal support for her refusal to say sorry.
She nearly mentioned the sorry word in Parliament but checked herself and threw shit back at Twyford instead.
As for the other train wreck, perhaps more of a car crash – exhibit two is Collins.
The minister usually known for her hard and crusher-like approach seemed to have a minor meltdown following the horrific road toll at Queen’s Birthday weekend – the worst in 27 years.
Labour’s Stuart Nash was quick to put out a predictable press release on Tuesday saying police underfunding was at fault.
He also blamed Collins’ announcement that 100 cops were being taken off the road.
But instead of simply pointing out that Nash was ahead of himself given the 100 police hadn’t been cut yet and his argument was redundant, Collins went a bit rogue and blamed men talking on their mobile phones.
Given there’s no proof any of the crashes at the weekend had anything to do with men talking on mobile phones, it’s just odd to even go there.
But that’s not where it stopped. The following day Collins, who has been noticeably withdrawn and quiet in the House over recent weeks, threw a grenade at police efforts to reduce speed on the roads by saying she didn’t agree with their zero-tolerance approach.
I’m not sure if Collins momentarily forgot she’s the Police Minister, but to criticise the police’s flagship policy as far as road policing goes and tackling excessive speed was just bizarre, especially given how unheralded her position was.
Her performance was far less serious or embarrassing than Bennett’s but indicate that Collins is not functioning at her best.
National don’t have any leadership vacancies or problems, but wobbly wheels like Bennett and Collins won’t do much towards helping the National bus weave it’s way into another term.