Friday 16 February 2018

Princess Stardust versus The Crusher Queen.

Demolition Woman: Who is best placed to demolish Labour's Jacinda Ardern most effectively? Simon Bridges? Amy Adams? Some other National MP of whom the overwhelming majority of conservative voters have heard next to nothing? Or the woman tens-of-thousands of conservative voters already admire for her take-no-prisoners approach to parliamentary politics – Judith “Crusher” Collins?

IT’S GOT TO BE JUDITH COLLINS. There will be many in National’s caucus who bridle at the very suggestion of Collins replacing Bill English. “She’s too divisive!”, they’ll cry. “She carries too much baggage”, others will mumble. “It would be the Woman of Yesterday going up against the Woman of Today”, the pundits will pronounce. “Jacinda’s relentless positivity would leave Collins battered and bleeding in the rubble of her negativity.”

And all of them would be missing the point.

The sort of leader the Right chooses when the Left has been in power for nine years is always very different from the leader it chooses when the Left has been in power for less than nine months. The former needs to present himself as the friend of continuity: the man who will hold the country together; the fresh pair of eyes in a familiar landscape. The latter must be a demolition agent: someone who can smash to pieces the dangerous installations of left-wing radicalism; a living rebuke to socialism in all its forms: a crusher.

The most vivid exemplar of the National-Party-leader-as-demolition-agent was, of course, Rob Muldoon. The redoubtable Norman Kirk, himself, would have struggled to match the political force-of-nature that was Muldoon. The mild-mannered Bill Rowling stood no chance at all.

What do you say to a man who wisecracks to his followers that he has seen “the shivers running ‘round Bill Rowling’s body looking for a spine to crawl up”? (And here you were thinking it was Donald Trump who invented that sort of political invective!)

Muldoon’s weapon-of-choice against the Rowling-led Labour Government was his self-proclaimed mastery of all things economic. Presented with the political gift of the 1973 Oil Shock – which injected a virulent booster-shot of commodity price inflation into the already inflation-plagued economies of the West – Muldoon seized upon the Labour Government’s policy of borrowing heavily overseas (to prevent the New Zealand economy from falling into recession) as proof of its economic recklessness.

Given that the debate on whether or not Grant Robertson should relax his grip on the nation’s purse-strings is likely to grow ever more heated over the next few months, it would make sense for National to elect a leader who is ready, willing and able to expose and exploit the divisions over the proper level of public debt already widening within the government’s ranks.

Who is best placed to do this most effectively? Simon Bridges? Amy Adams? Some other National MP of whom the overwhelming majority of conservative voters have heard next to nothing? Or the woman tens-of-thousands of conservative voters already admire for her take-no-prisoners approach to parliamentary politics – Judith “Crusher” Collins?

The expectation of a head-to-head contest between the Kiwi equivalents of Game of Thrones antagonists Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister extends well beyond the boundaries of the political Right. Collins is one of those rare politicians who, like Rob Muldoon, are able to imbue their bids for leadership with a sense of political inevitability.

Jacinda Arden displayed considerable political skill in masking the scale of her ambition until she was certain of success. From the moment she trounced Julie Anne Genter in the Mt Albert by-election, however, that same sense of inevitability was all around her as well.

It was the tragedy of Bill English’s career that, in spite of his supporters’ best efforts, not quite enough New Zealanders were able to look at him and see a prime minister. A highly competent finance minister? Yes. But, a prime minister? Yeah-Nah.

The question National’s caucus needs to ask itself is how many New Zealanders look at Simon Bridges, or Amy Adams, and say to themselves: “That person is going to be prime minister one day.” Does either politician possess that twinkle in the eye; that infuriatingly knowing smirk; which betrays the leader’s intimate acquaintance with Destiny?

The other factor National’s caucus needs to consider is whether its leadership candidates are strong enough to truly test Jacinda? This is the question that the Labour caucus and party never answered honestly in relation to John Key. It would be astonishing if the National Opposition repeated the folly of sending one leaden amateur after another to do battle with such a consummate sprinkler of stardust.

It is a huge mistake in politics to pit like against like.

Judith is nothing like Jacinda.

This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 16 February 2018.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Collins is completely different to Ardern obviously, but Muldoon was also completely different from Trump and I think it's a mistake to compare the two. Muldoon was a master of political invective, but Trump simply comes off as whiny. Muldoon had a certain intelligence, even if it was skewed towards bookkeeping, Trump managed to lose money on casinos. And I think Muldoon appealed to a wider range of people, only some of whom were deplorable. God help us, I had an aunt who liked him because he looked like Churchill – apparently. Something I could never quite see. :)

Kat said...

Quite simply Judith "Crusher" Collins has the slimmest chance of any in National to ever be Prime Minister. So bring on the polly entertainment as that is surely all she would provide.

pat said...

Nationals backbenchers will only choose Judith if they are happy to sacrifice their sinecures for the good of the party...cant see it somehow.
While JC (not the original) may well expose disunity within the coalition it will likely come at a cost short term and expose just as many factions within National.....and I dont think she will happily play the role of sacrificial lamb.

Polly. said...

I was betting Simon Bridges, your article convinces me otherwise.
I need a mintie.

Anonymous said...

I think you are talking up Jacinda's political achievements a wee bit.
"Won a safe Labour seat" is not all that impressive.
She lost - twice - to Nikki Kaye.

"Not Andrew Little" is also not terribly impressive.
"Good on TV" is more relevant, but does she have any more than that? What in her political history suggests that she does?

However, your article makes good points. Trying to out Jacinda Jacinda is clearly a mistake.
Collins would be great in opposition - she would fearlessly crush :) Labour/Jacinda in the house and in the media.
Not sure shes positive enough to appeal to the electorate as PM.

Bridges has an impressive CV, but is astonishingly awkward on TV.
Get that boy some media training!

David Stone said...

Hi Chris

"It is a huge mistake in politics to pit like against like."

On the policy front likewise I think.
There is a creepy feeling of inevitability about your prediction here. On the "face" of it you would think the comparison of leaders so extreme that such a selection would be economic suicide, but it might depend on what happens in the next two years.
Jacinda is doing a great job of presenting herself, and in spite of some criticism of more words than deeds in the first 100 days, and worries about the TPPA deal as the first indication of commitment to pre election rhetoric, it's sensible for her to have been focused on establishing herself before the public for this period. So she sure looks the part. So we know she is an excellent choice as a political salesperson. The next two years will show us more about what she has to sell. And how much of it is her own production and how much of it is basically the same product John Key and Judith have been selling for the last nine years.
It would be reasonable to assume that Jacinda does not think she knows better then her mentors and seniors in the labour
camp. It is reasonable to suppose that she will respect the experience and wisdom of Grant and Helen and Michael, and has no visions of departing from their guidance . That will essentially mean no change to national's agenda of the last nine years, and 'pitting like against like' will be what is presented in policy , and Jacinda could start to be perceived as a figurehead only.
That would provide the environment for Crusher to come through as the authentic neoliberal ,Chinese colonising, NZ
hawking, article. Preferable on the basis that if a job is worth doing it's worth doing properly, and might better be done by the professional.
Cheers D J S

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine Trump having the wit to use the shiver looking for a spine quip. That said, the line had been in use for a decade or so by the time Muldoon used it. Like the oft quoted: "New Zealanders going to Australia rises the IQs of both countries." He just ripped it off someone in else - in that case Tom Scott's Listener column. As Tom Scott later pointed out, he's just adapted an old Irish joke about emigration to Britain.
Jeremy Rose

David Stone said...

I agree with you there G S
Piggy was an intelligent able Keynesian economist in a belligerent offensive personality. Quite different to Trump unless Trump is very different from how he seems. But then he can't possibly be as he seems.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"But then he can't possibly be as he seems."
I think he can unfortunately. The man is almost certainly suffering from dementia. And apparently dementia exacerbates the worst facets of your character I was just reading. And his character was bad enough to begin with. But at least he puts the lie to the idea that a businessman running the country would be a good thing. Mind you, that having been said he's not a great businessman is he? :) Anyone who can lose money running casinos must be dumb as a stump.

greywarbler said...

Well we can leave Trump out of this. He might be a force of nature, but not from the same crucible as Muldoon. David Stone says he was basically Keynesian, and for that we can thank him. There was sterling stuff there despite being a cocky sort and if he did choose well from other's lines, that shows practical intelligence going for the right psychological jab.

Collins could annoy and harrass Jacinda et al very well for National and leave the others to be supporters. It would be a chance for them to show their chops, serve an apprenticeship, if another leader was eventually wanted. I think Jacinda might be made to retreat from many of her half-spawned ideas and go for the old-maid approach of semi-retired Labour pollies you mentioned Chris; Robertson, Clark and Cullen. Labour used to be Red but it's drifted. I am sorry to say it, but I have a feeling in my waters that we will be lucky if we can maintain enough vibrancy of the left to just get a show of Shocking Pink.

Victor said...

GS and DJS

I agree with you both on the differences twixt Muldoon and Trump. Another significant difference is that Muldoon was a professional politician who'd done his apprenticeship at the Despatch Box, whilst Trump's just a guy who ran a TV show about 'apprentices'.


Crusher might be the inevitable choice and, I'd agree that she's the one of the three most likely to keep National ahead of Labour in the next General Election.

But the whole point of last year's election result was that being the biggest single party ain't sufficient, unless you have a coalition partner or partners. And, apart from Act, which of the current mainstream parties would be willing to become Crusher's running dog?

So the best and perhaps only chance I see of a Crusher-led party breaking through to a majority would be with the assistance of Auckland's immigrant communities and particularly those from East Asia, perhaps through the medium of a new ethnic-based (Beijing aligned?) party, which might just get over the 5% mark.

Labour would be well-advised to pay the same attention to these communities as it is rightly paying to Maori.

But, if I was (weird thought)a National MP, I'd probably opt for one of the other candidates, in the hope that, with or without more of its own seats, National would be able to lure the Greens into a new alignment.

In fact, my money would be on Ms Adams, who shares Jacinda's inherent "niceness", is infinitely less charismatic but might be seen by conservative voters as a bit more weighty, in a lawyerly sort of way.

Yet, of course, whoever gets the leadership now may not be the person to lead the party in 2020. So I'd be keeping an eye on Paula Bennett, who's sailed less close to ignominy than has Crusher. If the latter can make a comeback, so can the "loyal deputy".

Pinger said...

I wouldn't vote for her but Crusher probably would make a good PM.

She's tough enough; when the big things were presented to her she wouldn't shit herself.

I haven't seen Jacinda do anything tough yet or been put to a real test as PM or an MP for that matter.

Photo shoots in Vogue and selfies with school kids is hardly a test of character.

Andrew Nichols said...

The latter must be a demolition agent: someone who can smash to pieces the dangerous installations of left-wing radicalism; a living rebuke to socialism in all its forms: a crusher.

So Collins is an NZ Tony Abbott?

Loz said...

National has been absolutely consistent at receiving the vote of between 35%-37% of registered electors in the last 4 elections. Labour's fortunes have never rested on turning blue voters red, it's purely been dependent on getting an increased turnout.

If Labour has any hope of retaining the government benches it has to maintain or increase the level of turnout - which means motivating those who have been despondent about politics.

The strategy used by the Republicans in the US was to oppose Obama on everything - no matter what it was. That was enough for a section of the working class to believe that his presidency was a disaster. All National has to do is to be persistent enough in its attacks for 3%-4% of registered voters to stay away and Labour can't win.

The last election was decided on a turnout of 80%. At a 77% turnout, National's reliable support base is enough for the party to take half of all seats on its own.

The example of Tony Abbott taking down both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd with persistent & at times unfair attacks was highly effective. With Labour off to a great start of doing nothing of significance at all it could become very easy pickings for an aggressive opposition leader.

Anonymous said...

Actually Cbris, English received a lot more votes than Jacinda did, just not quite enough for a majority on their own. Jacinda is only PM at the whim of Peters, not because more people voted for her than English, or for Labour instead of National.
Jacinda was given a very safe seat, a seat no candidate for Labour would lose.
And yes, she lost against Nikki Kaye twice in Auckland Central. Outside of her Parliamentary career, she has achieved little.

Collins on the other hand, won her electorate seat first time, did not have to be given a safe seat, and is a trained lawyer. She will be refreshing in contrast to fairydust Jacinda (endless photoshoots are starting to annoy the public, yep, she's gorgeous in them,but she is supposed to be running the country). We want a PM, not a model. Not a 'hey look at me' all the time celebrity.

Go Judith, hope she wins, and makes this govt a one-term govt, she will also have the grit to take the fight to Winston, and being female, she will not be accused of 'bullying' Jacinda when she holds her very much to account. Bring it on. If National goes for Amy Adams or Simon Bridges, then nah, all bets are off.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Actually Cbris, English received a lot more votes than Jacinda did, just not quite enough for a majority on their own. "

That's the way the system works – again. For Christ's sake, just suck it up.

Anyway, according to the news this morning Collins has minimal support.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor. Let's not romanticise Muldoon :). He was all those things, but he was also a malignant poison dwarf, who would do his best to ruin anyone who crossed him in any minor way. In this sense he was like any petty dictator.

JanM said...

"being female, she will not be accused of 'bullying' Jacinda when she holds her very much to account".
Which planet are you living on, Anonymous? If she doesn't tread very carefully she will be seen as the wicked old witch jealously attacking the beautiful fairy princess. "Hell hath no fury.." etc.

Kat said...

Appears the main "attack line" from the grieving right is that the PM is to much of a "celebrity". Well my message to them after enduring nine years of the "mincing" John Key is choke on it. And from the way the PM is handling affairs of state at the moment, including the business community, you will be choking in vain.

Anonymous said...

"Does either politician possess that twinkle in the eye; that infuriatingly knowing smirk; which betrays the leader’s intimate acquaintance with..." their own ego & self-importance.

David George said...

Good commentary Chris, I guess the one overriding consideration for the Nat caucus would be who would Jacinda least like to be up against. Judith Collins it is then.

Gerrit said...

The weakest link in the government coalition is Winston Peters. His health and demeanor does not seem to be up to it anymore. Question is what will the NZFirst caucus do after Peters has gone (or slipped so far down in the polls he is forced out by his caucus)? Will they keep the coalition together?

One can see the National opposition primary target not being Ardern but Peters.

In the next election they need as many of the NZFirst votes as they can reap. Lopping off Peters from NZFirst and throwing the NZFirst caucus into disarray could be the primary strategy, leaving Ardern alone till the public is weaned from the glamour of the Vogue cover girl.

Ardern has a small window to get herself seen as a PM. She started well with her speech at the business breakfast the other morning. Question is, will she rise up to the challenge Collins will no doubt provide her PM stewardship after Peters has gone.

Ardern also needs to be careful and shepherd her Maori caucus better. Davis and Jackson are swallowing some mighty big rats over charter schools. The fresh water ownership will be next Maori issue to be dealt with by Ardern.

New Maori party in the making if Ardern becomes like did Clark did in regards the Foreshore and Seabed?

greywarbler said...

Anony -
avoir du mou. You say a lot but can't find time to place an identifier,
so no Mou.

Hangs together. But makes my heart sick - they called Tony Abbott 'The Mad Monk' for good reason. Both Australia and USA are using a confrontational doctrine that destroys the effectiveness of a liberal democracy, and respect for the concept. Also practised here by John Key and in Toronto by Rob Ford, was the element of farce introduced so that democracy was aligned with entertainment in the popular mind. The conventional limits and organisation is being circumvented and the Speaker is hard pressed to control proceedings. In this link the business of the Toronto City is affected by the Mayor and his brother with more of an air of a roustabout than a serious politician, and further on the civil servant being castigated draws my sympathy.

Anonymous said...

Likewise, Ron. I hope she gets the job. She's a lot of fun.

greywarbler said...

I didn't read right to the end Anonymous - Ron of your gleeful hit over Labour in favour of Collins. So I should not have said that you hadn't put an identifier, so sucks to me. Next time I'll suffer your pieces right through to the last letter.

Victor said...


Taken as read. If I seem to have romanticised Muldoon, that was not my intention.


I agree with you that Winston seems to have lost his sparkle. I'm also getting a bit peeved by his excessive praise for despots and would-be despots. That's not how NZ should conduct its foreign policy.

But, frankly, the whole of New Zealand First is one of the coalition's weak links. It's not just who they are or what they do, although I confess to an inability to see Shane Jones as anything other than a very expensive joke.

It's also the negative vibe the tie-up will be giving the government in immigrant communities, which are not, these days, without electoral significance.

Last year, Labour's vote failed to impress in one of its traditional stamping grounds, viz the less affluent inner Auckland suburbs, with a more or less inverse proportionality between that vote and the density of newcomers.

Winston may be an essential and integral part of the government. But his being there is an electoral liability in such areas.


I actually think it's an overall branding advantage for New Zealand to have a celebrity PM. But, just as with "Clean 'n Green", it raises the ante on delivering.

Moreover, no political leader is likely to gain from excessive praise and expectation early in their term of office. A case to point was the (to my mind) largely admirable President Obama, whose performance could never live up to that absurd Nobel Prize.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

So Winston is losing it eh? Unless somebody can provide me with some sort of evidence of that I'll believe it when I it. Winston was a student of Muldoon, and you should never underestimate the man. He has years of experience of dodging questions, attacking the questioner and the question, and running roughshod over other parliamentarians. He may well surprise you yet. I admit I'm putting my reputation (such as it is) on the line here, but I'm not writing him off, I think the old dog's got a few tricks left in him. On the other hand, I think he's learned his lesson about trying to wag the dog – hopefully.

Victor said...

I agree he's still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve. But seems to have lost his ability to charm or, if not his ability, then his willingness to do so.

David Stone said...

I wouldn't worry too much about your reputation GS. After years of commenting on Bowalley Rd anyone who's interested knows what you think and who you are. Relax your fine.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David. I was thinking more about my reputation for being correct – such as it is. :) I'd hate to end up like Charles who makes these predictions to find them biting him in the arse a bit later. Such as:

1.China's emissions are falling.
2. Women Don't have any more problems in Western society.

Which is why I try not to be ABSOLUTELY convinced of almost anything.

Victor. You may well be correct, I haven't seen or heard much of him lately. You might have guessed I have a bit of a soft spot for Winston, not just because of the gold card. I thought he made a very good Minister of Maori affairs under national, and would have gone on to be maybe a decent enough national Prime Minister, except that he was treated quite badly by those who thought "Not good under the high ball." Oh well, I suppose you could get away with racism in those days a lot more.

Victor said...


Did you see those rather good pre-election programmes, called "Face the Classroom"?

Not only were the kids brilliant but all the party leaders (yes, even Gareth Morgan) managed to show their respective best sides, with the exception of Winston, in his role of grumpy old great-uncle, keen to get back to his drinking buddies and/or his mirror.

At that point, I knew that he'd lost his sparkle. And I write as a fellow septuagenarian.

sumsuch said...

Collins would be great fun -- images of Muldoon and , Don Brash suggests ,Thatcher. But didn't we pay for 'that' fun.

She's one of those arrow-tip toothed people you are warning us about taking over the National Party after the relative moderatism of Key and English?

Muldoon, despite his social-democratism , was a disaster for us. I would have much preferred Marshall to deliver the medicine that Douglas subsequently cack-handed at us. Tho' I agree with Holyoake's disapproval of Marshall for his purist free-market ideals. Unlike an all-over -the-place John Kirk like Douglas, Marshall was a deep, steeped NZer. And that 9 year delay made those changes the scar we haven't recovered from. (Also, Marshall was 100% Scots Highlander--allow me my prejudices )

Yes Grey Warbler, Labour is half owned by the elite, which is to say, wholly diabolical.

Guerilla Surgeon, apart from Peters talking about the betrayal of social democracy in 1984, unlike any other politician (!), I have absolutely no time for his populism. Despise him really.