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.”
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.”
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.”
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.