'Third time lucky' - Collins new National leader; Brownlee deputy

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 Jul 2020, 9:04PM

'Third time lucky' - Collins new National leader; Brownlee deputy

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 Jul 2020, 9:04PM

Long-time National MP Judith Collins emerged victorious in tonight's leadership vote and is determined to win back the treasury benches come September 19.

And she has set her sights on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"There is no chance at all that I'm going to let Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern get away with any nonsense when it comes to the economy and doing her job. We will hold her to account."

Gerry Brownlee was elected deputy leader in a crisis caucus meeting which lasted more than two and a-half hours.

The pair were flanked by what looked to be every National MP at Parliament this evening.

Speaking to media, she talked up her MPs – gesturing to them when describing her front bench.

"I can tell you that our team is better than their team," she said.

She said the Prime Minister had only three ministers that she had confidence in – whereas she had a whole team.

"I am hoping that the National Party will collectively crush the other lot, come September 19," she said, when asked if she could shake the nickname 'Crusher'.

Asked about her first job as National leader, Collins replied: "Winning".

"My focus as leader will be helping rebuild our communities and dealing with the economic and jobs crisis by getting Kiwis back to work," she said.

 

"Only National has the experience and skills to get us through this. We are a strong team and I look forward to forming the next Government."

New Zealand's economic recovery and what she suggested was an incompetent Government was a theme of Collins' late-night press conference.

"We're just going to have the most fun as we take back the country."

But she did concede it would be hard work – there are just 66 days until the election and the campaign period is only weeks away,

Collins warned that Ardern should not be underestimated.

Asked what she had over Ardern, she said: "Experience, toughness and the ability to make tough decisions."

Collins would not talk about who else ran for the leadership, or the deputy leadership.

Tonight was her third crack at National's leadership.

She put her hand up to replace John Key after he resigned as Prime Minister in 2016.

After it became obvious that Bill English – who was Key's preferred choice – had the numbers, she withdrew herself from consideration.

When Bill English resigned as National leader in early 2018, she – along with fellow National MPs Mark Mitchell, Simon Bridges, Amy Adams and Steven Joyce – ran for the top job.

She lost to Bridges, polling the lowest.

"It's third time lucky," she said, when asked about the leadership run.

She confirmed there would be a minor re-shuffle in the next few days or weeks.

But finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith would keep his portfolio.

When asked about Michael Woodhouse keeping his health portfolio, Collins said there were "still a few things to work out".

She also confirmed that none of the MPs who had previously announced they were resigning from politics, such as Paula Bennett, have indicated they would be coming back.

And other caucus decisions – such as ruling out working with NZ First after the election – still stand, she confirmed.

National's policy base will be largely unchanged, she said.

"We're a serious party, with serious policies," she said.

Her focus now was to start winning back the confidence of National's base.

"It's important that we send some strong messages out to our base," she said.

That base has been a bit "discombobulated".

After concluding the press conference, Collins said "I think it might be time for a drink," before posing for a few photos and leaving with her team.