National Party in disarray with Collins deposed as Leader

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It was a bolt from the Blue and questions and doubts arise

Victims of two different coups (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, November 25, 2021

To say that the National Party is in crisis is an understatement of the year.

In a word, and to borrow the phrase of the ousted Leader Judith Collins, it is in shambles.

And how a person so erudite, experienced (as an MP, Minister and Lawyer) as Ms Collins could make such err so badly as to push a major political Party to the brink of collapse and destruction is difficult to fathom.

The dumping of Simon Bridges

Most of us who received her press statement last night (Wednesday) were non-plussed because that was hardly the time (9.24 pm) to be informed that a senior member of the Caucus has been demoted and stripped of their portfolios.

It is normal for us journos to get a feel of an impending eventuality but none of us had any inkling that Simon Bridges would be dumped by his Leader, without being given notice and an opportunity to explain.

Judith Collins has been the Leader of the Opposition for 499 days and hence knew what it takes to be in the job and how her actions could have a wide impact.

It was therefore unbecoming of her to have dumped Mr Bridges to redress the grievance of Jacqui Dean, a fellow MP, of an incident that has already been addressed.

National MP Jacqui Dean

The Jacqui Dean saga

In her press statement, Ms Dean said, “About five years ago, Simon Bridges made remarks that upset me at the time. They were not about me, but they were inappropriate and not something I wanted to hear. At the time there was an apology, but subsequently, it has continued to play on my mind and with the recent reviews that have occurred in Parliament the feelings have been brought back up. What matters to me is that all of us have a clear understanding of what behaviour we should expect in a modern workplace environment. Simon and I have spoken a number of times over the past few hours and he has reiterated his apology. As I am sure can be appreciated, the publicity around this has been upsetting and I ask that my privacy is respected on this,” she said.

Ms Collins committed several inexplicable blunders that cost her the job and will haunt her for some time to come. Some mistakes are as irreparable as avoidable and reprehensible.

She did not consult her Caucus – she should have, given the prevailing doubts over her leadership and rumours that she would be challenged.

The Board of Directors issue

And then the issue with the Board of Directors of the Party.

Ms Collins said that the Board had unanimously supported her decision to take away the portfolios of Mr Bridges; that has been denied by Party President Peter Goodfellow, saying that the Board had merely asked her to follow the procedures and seek the explanation of Mr Bridges in the first instance.

She mentioned in one of her tweets soon after leaving Parliament in a taxi that she was aware of risking her role as the Party Leader for taking the complaint of a colleague (Ms Dean) ‘so seriously.

“If I had not, then I felt that I would not deserve the role,” she said.

It is now fair to say that Ms Collins would have lost her job anyway.

“Hello, are you listening?” Judith Collins speaking at the Working Luncheon at Indian Newslink offices on April 30, 2021 (INL Photo by Narendra Bedekar)

For one thing, she would have been challenged by Mr Bridges or someone else at the Caucus meeting on Tuesday (November 30, 2021) if not today. And for another, Simon O’Connor, a senior MP (and brother-in-law of Mr Bridges) called out Ms Collins and said that he would give up his portfolios (Spokesperson for Internal Affairs, Customs, Arts, Culture and Heritage and Associate Spokesperson for Ethnic Communities and Foreign Affairs) if “she was not removed by the evening.”

Members of the National Caucus will meet on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 to elect a new Leader with a Deputy.

We are told that at least five candidates are likely to vie for the job: Mark Mitchell, Christopher Luxon, Simon Bridges, Nicola Wills and Chris Bishop. Until then, the current Deputy Dr Shane Reti will keep the Party together.

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