Judith Collins stepped up and grinned when she appeared for reporters the day after the New Zealand elections were held. crushing victory for his opponent, Jacinda Ardern of Labor – the most popular state leader in modern times.
“I feel very good,” he said. Wake up today, the sun is shining.
It was as if he had not only presided over a crushing defeat to his National Party, which commentators described as bloodshed and culminating in a grim reunion night and a funeral.
National, which has painted itself as a home, a choice experienced during nine years in government before Ardern’s 2017 rise, has slipped from 56 to 35 seats in Parliament’s 120 seats.
Now Collins – a veteran but polarizing lawmaker who often positions himself as contrary to Ardern’s advice for good – joining the ranks of two of this year’s predecessors who failed to make progress against the prime minister’s popular Covid-19 response. And while he was eager to blame unprecedented circumstances for most of his losses, analysts said National also failed to properly address the factors under its control.
David Farrar, head of Curia Market Research, which conducts polls for National and will address his caucus at its next meeting on Tuesday, said: “They have seven leaders and deputy leaders in one term, multiple lawmakers causing trouble, and three years. leakage on-and-off.
“It does damage the short term, but after a while it also damages the brand.”
New Zealand voters generally cast their votes carefully, preferring a government that has an equal match with the smaller parties that provide checks on the power of the major parties.
In Saturday’s election, they ignored him, giving Ardern, at the current tally, 64 seats out of 120.His victory was not just stubborn support for his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic, but stinging rejection of Collins’s National – which is struggling to make progress on the offensive. against Ardern’s border control competence during the pandemic, and struggling with chaos and dysfunction in its caucuses.
National has sometimes underestimated Ardern’s global popularity, pointing instead to what they call his failure to deliver at home. And at one point it seemed to be working: in October 2019, Reid’s Newshub research poll had the National Labor Party taking the lead.
On Saturday, it’s more than just turning around.
“It shows voters are proactively choosing Ardern,” said Ben Thomas, a public relations consultant and former National government staffer. That should be a reflection of the ties he formed with voters during Covid.
Now, National will be watching closely to see if Ardern – given a grand mandate to do what he likes, and with no small party as a hand brake on his agenda unless he chooses to work with them – will live up to his promise.
“I hope our countries do much better than the current government’s fiscal arrangements allow them to do so,” Collins said on Sunday, referring to his statement that he will lead a stronger economic recovery from Covid-19. “I feel very concerned about my country.”
The party’s slogan is: “Stronger Teams, More Jobs, Better Economy.” But adding to the insult to injury, the head of Labor polling firm Stephen Mills of UMR said Ardern’s party had outperformed National on every metric.
Asked if he hopes to become leader of the party in the next election, in 2023, Collins said on Sunday: “I hope so.”
But 34 of his colleagues will call, starting the caucus Tuesday.
A National MP told the Guardian that National woes can be traced back to the vote that rolled out former leader Simon Bridges in May. At the time Bridges was, personally, very unpopular, but things went from bad to worse for the party after he was overthrown. Some now believe he should be defended.
His replacement, Todd Muller, led the party for more than 50 days then quit suddenly, citing his mental health.
Bridges has become an online cult favorite due to the freewheeling social media presence he has adopted since leaving the role. But he told interviewers after Saturday’s vote that he was “Not interested” in continuing leadership.
Only two other competitors have been widely mentioned. One of them is Mark Mitchell – a former police officer and private security contractor in Iraq – who has been a member of parliament since 2011 but is not widely known.
He to TVNZ on Sundays that he would not challenge Collins’ leadership. “Absolutely not, it’s not on the table. That’s the furthest thing from my mind, “he said.
Another rumored competitor is Christopher Luxon – an evangelical Christian and former chief executive of national airline Air New Zealand – who won the Auckland Botany seat on Saturday night.
But Luxon will enter parliament for the first time and has no political experience. He has not spoken with certainty about leadership challenges.
Several have come out to support Collins. Paul Goldsmith, the only senior party lawmaker to attend the grim election night event in Auckland, told the Guardian when asked if Collins would continue: “Look, we’ll be taking stock over the next few weeks.”
Farrar, the National poll, said the public “will not be interested in anything National has to say before Christmas”, and the party should use that time to “catch a breath” and contemplate calmly.
“I don’t think the public wants to focus much on politics right now,” he said. “Everyone is still focused on Covid, and people don’t want elections.”
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