THE NATIONAL PARTY CAUCUS should make Judith Collins Leader of the Opposition. They should, but they won’t. Like the Labour Party caucus in 2011, the Nats will allow their hearts (or possibly their livers) to over-rule their heads. They’ll opt for the candidate/s they want – rather than the candidate their party needs. And, by telling their party to run-along and let the professionals handle it, they will unleash exactly the same debilitating internal conflict that kept Labour out of power for 9 years.
Why? Because the only lesson to be learnt from history is that human-beings are incapable of learning the lessons of history.
Anyone listening to Judith Collins being interviewed by Guyon Espiner on this morning’s (26/2/18) “Morning Report” couldn’t help but be impressed.
For a start, she had the gumption to show up in RNZ’s Auckland studio. Although all five of the candidates vying for the National Party leadership had been invited, all but Collins declined.
That decision, alone, is enough to disqualify Amy Adams, Simon Bridges, Steven Joyce and Mark Mitchell from leading a round of applause – let alone the largest political party in New Zealand.
More impressive, however, was Collins’ ability to express her thoughts clearly, forcefully, succinctly and with a well-judged measure of good humour. Unlike Amy Adams, she doesn’t gabble. Nor does her tongue appear to be engaged in a wrestling-match with every vowel attempting to make it past her teeth – as is the case with both Simon Bridges and Mark Mitchell.
Only Steven Joyce is competitive with Collins when it comes to articulateness. Unfortunately, he always sounds as if he’s privy to some private joke: something about which his listeners know absolutely nothing. There is about the man a fundamental lack of seriousness which sits very uneasily with the role he is now seeking to play. Conveying the impression that the voters are all just hapless players in some vast cosmic comedy may be acceptable in a highly successful campaign manager – but not in a potential prime minister.
The other explanation for Collins’ articulateness is that she actually has something to say. In marked contrast to the torrent of empty platitudes and/or self-aggrandizing puffery pouring out of the mouths of the other candidates, Collins talks about politics. Given that she is in a race for the political leadership of New Zealand, that is both refreshing and gratifying.
That Collins’ politics is frightening to liberals, socialists and other harmless living creatures is neither here nor there. Said socialists and liberals are not her primary audience.
The New Zealanders Collins is speaking for and to are not the sort to be found in the university common-room – nor yet the secondary-school staff-room. They are not liberal arts students or aspiring film-directors. Not many of them will be found on the factory-floor, in the warehouse, or laying bitumen on the motorway.
Collins supporters are much more likely to be found in small, owner-operated businesses and family-farms. She will get a good hearing from women operating in positions of mid-level responsibility: the working mother who looks after the wages in a medium-sized enterprise; the manager of a retail outlet employing three or four shop assistants. Men of an authoritarian temperament (and there are a lot more of those than most people would like to think) will urge Collins on with lusty cheers.
Most supportive of all, however, will be those wealthy, hard-core conservatives who bridle at the regulatory “madness” of health-and-safety legislation; the enterprise-stifling provisions of the Resource Management Act; and the sheer effrontery of trade unionists and public servants. The sort of people who know that life under free-market capitalism is a zero-sum game – and who have no intention of remaining on the losing side for one second longer than is absolutely necessary.
In short, Collins appeals to the sort of people who have always made up – and continue to make up – the vast bulk of National Party support. The sort of people who do not take kindly to having their clearly expressed preference over-ridden by the ambitious ne’er-do-wells and wannabes who came to them for the money and behind-the-scenes backing required to secure a seat in the New Zealand Parliament.
In short, the sort of people who, should they discover that National’s caucus is no longer capable of identifying who, in the largest possible measure, possesses the qualities required to lead the National Party to victory, will insist on doing the job themselves.