National leader Judith Collins has no intention of going anywhere, articulating her case for staying in the party’s top job at a press conference the day after a devastating defeat
A defiant Judith Collins says she does not expect a challenge to her leadership when the National Party’s diminished caucus meets for the first time, despite leading the party to its second-worst result in history.
Speaking to media after National won just 26.8 percent of the vote on Saturday night – a low-water mark exceeded only by Bill English in 2002 – Collins said a review of the campaign and National’s wider work in the last term was what the party needed most, rather than a change of leader.
“What I do expect is everyone is going to be very focused on stability and I think too it will be really important for us that we have a very thorough review of what’s happened, and I think not just the last year, but actually the last three years will be good for the party to go and have a look at all the things that went right and what went wrong.”
The caucus had asked her to take on what most people would have thought was “something of a hospital pass” in the circumstances, she said.
“It was always going to be a very big ask, particularly with having taken over in the circumstances that I did at the last moment, and then with a second Covid lockdown and everything else to deal with, I know very well that there was absolutely nothing left on the field – I did everything I could.”
Asked whether she should be taking more personal responsibility for her role in National’s thumping defeat, Collins replied: “I take absolute responsibility for working every single day and night for the campaign and also making sure that wherever we were asked to we were always there, but that’s what I’ve done, I’ve actually worked my little socks off.”
‘[Taking the leadership] was the right thing to do, and somebody had to come in and provide stability, someone who the public knew, but also the party knew and could trust, and I think that that is one of the reasons why it’s incredibly important to continue that stability.”
She dismissed former leader Simon Bridges’ complaint that National MPs had little idea of the party’s messaging in the last weeks of the campaign, saying it was “all in the inbox” each day.
Collins did not want to say that ill-discipline cost the party dearly, leaving any such finding to the review that would be carried out, although she claimed that the leak of Maungakiekie MP Denise Lee’s email criticising her leadership led to a five-point drop in National’s internal polling.
The review of the party’s performance could extend back to consider whether it had become too complacent after securing the largest vote share of any party in 2017 but failing to form government.
“Having come in with a very large caucus into opposition, with 44 percent of the party vote and against the Labour Party that had 37, but not being in government, you can actually start to think that, you know, there’s some complacency that can set in.”
Collins suggested the party’s candidate selection processes could also be examined, given the high-profile disputes in electorates such as Auckland Central.
Despite the disastrous result for National, she had no regrets about taking on the leadership.
‘It was the right thing to do, and somebody had to come in and provide stability, someone who the public knew, but also the party knew and could trust, and I think that that is one of the reasons why it’s incredibly important to continue that stability.”
While she hoped to stay on as leader, losing the role would have no bearing on whether she stayed in Parliament as the MP for Papakura.