Collins says she has 'full backing' of caucus after 'sombre' meeting

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 20 Oct 2020, 2:09PM

Collins says she has 'full backing' of caucus after 'sombre' meeting

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 20 Oct 2020, 2:09PM

National leader Judith Collins has fronted media in Parliament with what appeared to be her entire caucus, vowing "We are going to be a very strong opposition".

Collins said she has the full backing of her caucus and "everyone has moved on" from previous leadership coups.

"I'm feeling positive about our way forward... Everyone is really focused."

Her focus now was on building a "tight" caucus and limit navel gazing.

The media stand-up follows a "sombre" first meeting - about four hours - of National's new caucus.

The party suffered a devastating loss on Saturday night, losing 20 MPs. The 27 per cent of the vote that the party did win is the second-lowest result in National's history.


Meanwhile, Labour won 49 per cent of the total vote meaning it now has 64 MPs – an outright majority.

Collins said today National had a "very good" caucus meeting. They had talked about the party's review - that's a review the caucus would be part of. The structure of that review had not yet been decided.

"They would be mostly listening" she said, of the MPs.

It will be a way to look forward.

She would not say what happened in the meeting but that today was a "far more positive" situation than the bleak meeting of MPs after the 2002 election loss.

She relished the opportunity to hold the Government to account.

Brownlee on being deputy leader

Asked if he was staying on in Parliament, Gerry Brownlee said he would be and that National needed a Christchurch representative.

But a decision had not yet been made on the deputy leadership of the party.

Collins said Nick Smith would be staying on as an MP.

"We believe in freedom of choice in the National Party," she said when asked about if any other MPs were leaving.

She said decisions around portfolios will be made after the final vote is counted.

But she said she would be taking soundings from her MPs on what roles they would like.

A sad day

MPs were sad, as they have said goodbye to so many MPs. She said she was been struck by the "immense loyalty" of those outgoing MPs.

Collins thanked the MPs who joined her for their contributions and said there were a lot of positive contributions from out going MPs this morning.

"It was awe inspiring.

"It's onwards and upwards for us."

Some of National's former MPs are keen to come back in 2023. But National was not taking anything for granted, Collins said.

Collins said she was not expecting any further MPs will leave - but some might leave.

She said the caucus was working on a "buddy system" for it's new MPs. The whips are now training the MPs too.

Leaker 'should go'

National MPs from across the country have been making their way back to Wellington over the past two days.

Somed blamed an email leak for the election result.

An email from MP Denise Lee to the rest of caucus objected to party leader Judith Collins' decision to announce a review of the Auckland Council – and was leaked to a media outlet.

Collins has said cost the party five points at the polls.

Collins said today "I don't think we're going to have any issues" when it comes to any further leaks.

Asked what her message was to the caucus regarding leaks, she said it was clear everyone has to work well together.

At the press conference this afternoon, Lee did not want to comment on the email she sent that was leaked.

Outgoing Northcote MP Dan Bidois this morning said the leaker "should go".

"Encouraging a culture where people get away with leaks is unacceptable."

He said the whole caucus needed to take responsibility for the loss, not just Judith Collins – "this is larger than the leadership".

Outgoing MP Maggie Barry – described the election result as "horrible".

But a number of other National MPs did not want to speak to media and hustled inside Parliament without commenting.

National's caucus met for close to four hours this afternoon.

It was an opportunity for some of the outgoing MPs to say their goodbyes to their former colleagues.

One such MP was Lawrence Yule, who lost his Tukituki seat on Saturday night.

He told media on his way out of Parliament that there were "a lot of speeches and a lot of feeling".

He said the mood was "pretty sombre".

"You would expect it to be, after a loss like that."

But he said National MPs were upbeat about the prospect of having another run at 2023.

Collins on Winston Peters

Asked if she was glad to see the end of New Zealand First, she said she takes no joy in seeing people lose their jobs.

"It is very important that we look towards the future," she said.

When she was asked what contributions Winston Peters make over the years, she said the SuperGold card was good.

She said his contribution to seniors was to be admired.

Asked to describe Peters in one word, she said: "He's just Winston."

Asked if she was happy that Jami-Lee Ross was no longer in Parliament, she said the precinct would be better without him.