Judith Collins’ week goes from bad to worse as National served up a smorgasbord of debacles, writes James Elliott
The country was stricken by an icy shock wave this week. Plunging temperatures were attributed to a so-called “polar blast”, a conveyer belt of freezing southerlies apparently streaming north directly from Antarctica. I realise that it’s dangerous territory for a lay person to opine on meteorological matters but in this case the weather wizards were clearly wrong in attributing the freeze to a polar blast. It was obvious to any casual observer that the freeze was coming directly from the perpetual winter that is National’s caucus room.
Right now the National Party is following a script that George RR Martin would reject as being too bloody and chaotic. It’s a cycle of saga followed by debacle, with this week’s Todd Muller episode being a bit of both, a sagacle. “Former National Party leader Todd Muller” is a description that now almost requires fact-checking (he was, from May 22 to July 14 2020) and his continued presence in the National Party Parliamentary ranks makes him a one-man saga. This week’s debacle, following the previous debacle of Nick Smith’s departure, which was preceded by the Jake Bezzant debacle, was Muller’s announcement that he would step down from Parliament in 2023 following last week’s debacle that he had leaked critical comments about incoming National list MP Harete Hipango’s inappropriate spending debacle during the last Parliamentary term.
With the disruption to so many sporting events due to Covid-19 the TAB is now offering competitive odds on how many seconds it takes for Judith Collins to lose her composure when being interviewed by Susie Ferguson.
However, whether Muller will get his wish of staying in Parliament through until 2023 is an open question. It’s also a question that was put directly to Judith Collins during the week by Susie Ferguson on Morning Report. I confess that I didn’t listen to the entire interview because my ears started to get severely frostbitten at about the one-minute mark – the atmosphere was that icy. It started with the chill of Judith’s pointed “Good morning” in response to Susie’s cheery “Tena koe” and just got frostier from there. In fact, with the disruption to so many sporting events due to Covid-19 the TAB is now offering competitive odds on how many seconds it takes for Judith Collins to lose her composure when being interviewed by Susie Ferguson. You can get odds of 3-1 for the double of “that’s a matter for caucus Susie” and “that’s not a matter I’m going to be discussing with you Susie” both landing within the first minute.
To be fair to Judith she did at least try and inject some humour into the interview with a repeated punchline of “what happens in caucus stays in caucus”. It was generous of Susie not to jump in on that punchline so that we listeners could enjoy the warming respite of an uninterrupted chuckle at the absurdity of that assertion.
And that’s as far as Judith’s humour extended as her week went from bad to worse to whatever it is that’s worse than worse. In this case what was worse than worse was being savaged by former National Cabinet Minister Chris Finlayson. Stuff’s political commentators reported, incorrectly, that Finlayson had “lashed” the current National Party as being a disaster, forgetting that lashing and lashing out are expressly reserved for the exclusive use of reporting on Winston Peters until such time as he formally retires from politics.
Jacinda Ardern is spinning a number of increasingly wobbly plates … but while she is at least trying to keep her plates spinning, Judith Collins seems hellbent on smashing hers.
In any event, Chris Finlayson did not pull any punches saying that National was undergoing the worst brand destruction he’s ever seen. And as harsh as his comments were, as Gwynn Compton pointed out on Twitter, they were even more brutal in the original Latin. Finlayson concluded his interview with Stuff by saying “Put that in your article: they deserve everything they’ve got.” So they did.
Judith’s response to the Finlayson broadside was to observe that Finlayson was out of touch by introducing a new measurement of time, saying that Finlayson “left two leaders ago”. It speaks to an odd pathology to measure time by reference to the tenure of previous leaders that you have rolled and, why oh why would you go out of your way to remind people of that? And it speaks to being in a very dismal place when you launch a new banner of National Party values only for most of the commentary to be about the number of different fonts used in making nine statements. It’s not much of a plug to say “Well, at least you didn’t use comic sans”.
Meanwhile the Labour government is ploughing ahead with a consistent policy platform known as the “Hosking pledge” – identify all the things that Mike Hosking is vehemently opposed to, and do those things. And here’s the irony for National, there is an abundance of issues that National could utilise to position itself as a credible alternative to the Labour Government, but can’t. The once infallible Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is spinning a number of increasingly wobbly plates – the cycle bridge, urban utes, hate speech policy, and the apparent lottery of the vaccine rollout, and so on. But while Jacinda’s at least trying to keep her plates spinning, Judith Collins seems hellbent on smashing hers.
Have a peaceful weekend.