Another one that bites the dust.
Judith Collins was expected to be eliminated by the next election, but it was her own actions that precipitated a bloodshed before Christmas.
Once his replacement is elected next week, he will be the fifth National Party leader in four years.
In a late-night press release, Collins accused MP and former leader Simon Bridges of “allegation of serious misconduct related to [his] interaction with caucus colleague “; she demoted him and stripped him of her portfolios.
The issue was timing of release and questions regarding his demotion from Bridges had received unanimous support from the board; Furthermore, some MPs felt it was a successful job on Bridges after he again started to stir the pot of leadership. Shocked and taken aback, they tabled in Parliament this morning a special caucus meeting that quickly turned into a vote of no confidence.
The incident in question happened about five years ago, during lunch break during a caucus meeting at Premier House in Wellington.
Bridges says he was speaking with a group of MPs and that at “one point” Jacqui Dean joined the conversation:
“We talked about our wives, our kids,” Bridges told reporters, “I remember talking about having two boys. And I wanted a girl.
“And I got into old womens stories about it, and how to have a daughter, and I fully accept and regret that day, because I recognize that some of my words were clearly inappropriate.”
After speaking to then-Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, he apologized to Dean and considered the matter closed.
He was “surprised” by Collins’ “desperate move” and the “very brief and very poor process” where “he had not been made aware of the real deal.”
But speaking to reporters after the caucus meeting, he seemed quite frugal, pointing out his lack of confidence in Collins and keen to talk about the personal growth he had experienced since losing leadership himself – s’ lining up for another shot?
“I want to consider this the next day or two… I think today in particular I’m an older guy, maybe wiser than I was.”
So it’s a yes.
In a statement, Jacqui Dean said that while Bridges’ comments weren’t about her, they weren’t something she wanted to hear and they had recently played into her mind.
As for Collins, she left Parliament today with just a brief goodbye, wishing everyone good luck and sticking to her decision to issue the press release.
No press conference, but a departure tweet saying that she knew she was putting her leadership on the line by disciplining Bridges, but it was important for her to support Dean, who had suffered “continuing distress”.
Does she regret making the statement? : “Never!”, As she jumped into a waiting taxi.
And here we are again, a vacancy in the leadership of the National Party.
The list of possible suitors is getting shorter and shorter; partly because it is a much smaller caucus, partly because they have exhausted so many over the last few years.
Realistically, Bridges and Botany MP Chris Luxon are the ones to watch. Former police officer Mark Mitchell has been loosely in the mix in previous contests, but has struggled to get the backing needed to secure a bid on the line.
Bridges has been trying to rehabilitate himself since losing to Todd Muller last year: the hair, the yak, the book. He has had time to learn the brutal lessons of being leader of the opposition, and his combative style may be better suited to the Covid political environment of 2021.
As dissatisfaction with Collins grew, the momentum was building behind Bridges, but the potential level of support he now has is not yet clear.
While some caucus members believe he was stripped of his candidacy in last year’s election and should have another chance, these recent allegations will cast a shadow and may make some MPs think twice before deciding. reinstall him as a leader.
Former Air New Zealand boss Chris Luxon came to Parliament with the dubious “honor” of being dubbed a future leader, and rolled out his preset lines with a smile every time he showed up (regularly ). He is advised by experienced people, but he is still a political novice, a near stranger, and could risk the same fate as Muller if he is thrown into the job too early.
Shane Reti, Collins’ former assistant, hasn’t ruled out a tilt himself, but [her as interim leader sees his role now as “shepherding” the caucus through the coming week.
The vote will be held on Tuesday, which will give MPs time to digest the events of the past 24 hours, and consider the future leadership of the National Party.