NZ Nats question direction under Collins

·3-min read

New Zealand's opposition National party is engaged in a new round of navel-gazing, standing accused of abandoning the voter alliance that underpinned John Key's three election wins.

National is often called New Zealand's natural party of government.

In the 20 elections from 1960, the centre-right force topped Labour's result 14 times, including the 2017 poll.

Under the leadership of Bill English, National polled 44 per cent to Labour's 37 in the 2017 election, with Jacinda Ardern only taking office after winning over two minority parties in government negotiations.

During Ms Ardern's leadership, National led in the polls as recently as February 2020 before Labour's shrewd response to COVID-19 transformed the landscape.

National have been through the wringer ever since.

In the October election, Ms Ardern's Labour party won by a historic margin - 50 per cent to National's 26 - to claim a majority government.

Almost a year later, Judith Collins remains National leader, polarising Kiwis with indiscretions on a weekly basis.

Earlier this month, Ms Collins resorted to repeatedly slanging an interviewer when questioned on the appropriateness of leaving locked-down Auckland for a parliamentary session in Wellington.

Last week, she berated New Zealander of the Year Siouxsie Wiles when the beloved science communicator was spotted maskless at a beach.

Dr Wiles had not breached lockdown rules but was, according to Ms Collins, a "big fat hypocrite".

Many question Ms Collins' temperament.

Others have bigger doubts on National's political direction.

Significant figures from the party's moderate wing are increasingly speaking out, saying the Key-era coalition of urban liberals and regional supporters is being dismantled.

Matthew Hooton, a National-aligned public relations consultant who was instrumental in an ill-fated 2020 leadership switch to Todd Muller, believes the party "has been infiltrated by radical Christian evangelicals".

"The current leader, president and MPs must pander to that group, dubbed 'the Taliban' by the party's remaining centrists," he wrote in Metro magazine.

"Whenever National has been strong, it has remained explicitly a coalition of liberals and conservatives, of John Keys and Bill Englishes."

Ms Collins has certainly put her stamp on the partyroom, conducting regular performance review-style meetings with her MPs.

She played roles in the exits of senior MPs Nick Smith and Mr Muller, and last month demoted key moderate Chris Bishop in a reshuffle.

Chris Finlayson, a respected minister under Mr Key, told Stuff in June that National was engaged in "brand destruction" under Ms Collins.

On Wednesday morning, Ms Collins' former press secretary Janet Wilson joined the fray.

"The party could politely be described as moribund," she told The Spinoff.

"I'm an urban liberal creature within the national party ... that urban liberalism is fairly scant at this point in time.

"We were the party of farmers and urban liberals back in the day. And now, where are they? Nowhere to be seen."

Ms Collins denies this, telling AAP "the National Party is, and always will be, a party of broadchurch (sic) principles".

A party spokesman confirmed a lack of farmers on the party's board, but said a current vacancy may be filled by the profession.

But Mr Hooton and Ms Wilson don't mince their words: both predicting the end for the party under Ms Collins leadership.

"Talk about the fact that the party is on the brink of oblivion is entirely correct," Ms Wilson said.

"They are suffering endless entitled-itis and think that just the swing of the political pendulum will make them relevant. I'm not seeing that."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting