Visiting National leader not on a roll

Judith Collins had one publicly expressed mission on her Dunedin visit on Thursday - to win Taieri for National.

The privately expressed agenda, on the other hand, was to try to get a campaign which was badly in danger of coming off the rails back into the groove again.

If Ms Collins had come to Dunedin the previous week, she would have been on a high - two impressive debate performances and poll results which if not stellar were at least not as dire as National has recorded in recent times.

However, this week Ms Collins was not in such a good space.

The Press leaders’ debate on Tuesday, while not the resounding victory for Labour leader Jacinda Ardern that some have claimed, was not as strong a performance by Ms Collins as she had previously delivered.

That was followed the next day by the surfacing of a leaked email from Maungakiekie MP Denise Lee which criticised Ms Collins’ handling of policy announcements.

Soon after came the disastrous walkabout in Auckland, where "random" passers-by greeted by Ms Collins were alleged to be, in the main, pre-arranged party loyalists.

Whatever the truth of that, it meant Ms Collins spent the next two news cycles deflecting questions about the honesty of her campaign strategy when she would far rather she was being quizzed about her policies.

Dunedin was a chance to put all that behind her, but process issues continued to dog Ms Collins throughout.

The day started with a visit to a very noisy Mosgiel factory, followed by what National said was a highly successful walkabout in Dunedin.

However, the media - while apparently welcome - were also not invited, possibly due to an overabundance of caution by Ms Collins’ minders following the travails of the previous day.

A strangely listless speech at the Chamber of Commerce was followed by a torturous stand-up where reporters wanted answers to allegations of disloyalty by backbenchers while Ms Collins wanted to discuss "what matters to New Zealanders".

Unfortunately for Ms Collins, what matters to many folk in the South is the cheese roll, that artery-clogging "delicacy" which is the region’s gift to the nation’s cuisine.

A Mosgiel cafe had been detailed to produce a tray of southern sushi for a photo op, but Ms Collins’ no-show guaranteed another "campaign clanger" headline, even though the party’s Taieri candidate Liam Kernaghan did his level best to rescue the situation by showing up in person once the slip was discovered.

Politicians hate these sort of things ... in the grand scheme of things they mean little, but they end up being mostly what people talk about and remember.

Through a misunderstanding Ms Collins had instead sampled her southern comestible earlier in the day at Starfish in St Clair - again, an event her minders had not invited any professionals with a camera to.

Things picked up markedly for Ms Collins at trip’s end though, closing her day with a lively public meeting at Taieri College.

Perhaps she had just had enough and decided to let fly, but she was back on the sort of jest-filled form which won her the first leader’s debate and earned a score draw in the second.

With a poll at the end of the day showing little movement in National’s ratings, Ms Collins will need more punch and less process to narrow the gap with the Labour Party in the week of the campaign that remains.

Surge?

Winston Peters was laughing when he said it, but maybe the fabled New Zealand First surge is actually on?

Sure, going from 1% to 2.4% in the polls is not an avalanche of support, but it is a step in the right direction.

Lawrence-based list MP Mark Patterson has been doing his bit, debating Waitaki National MP Jacqui Dean and her colleague David Bennett and Green MP Eugenie Sage at the High Country Farmers annual conference and the next day popping up in Gore for a tractor-driven protest concerning water standards.

Threshold matters

New Zealand First’s poll rating - and that of the Green Party for that matter - might see them wish to consider the issue of the MMP threshold.

Back when MMP was first proposed, the recommendation was a 4% threshold, a call repeated when MMP was reviewed.

That extra 1% has proven a tricky hurdle to clear, as New Zealand First (4% in 2008), the Conservatives (2.6% in 2011), New Conservatives (3.99% in 2014), The Opportunities Party (Top) (2.44% in 2017) can testify.

Many parties will likely miss out again - and Dunedin will be denied an extra MP if Top falls below 5% as Ben Peters, its Dunedin candidate, is high on its party list.

As the polls stand, just four parties will make up the next Parliament, hardly the wider representation which MMP was designed to promote.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

Comments

Well, I agree with the headline, Crusher is definitely not on a roll! and I do appreciate the pun.
Her biggest problem at the moment is her absolute inability to control her MPs. In one voice she tells us she is the leader, she is in control and in another she says that her team members have passionate views and she supports them lying about her opponents.
Well, what is it Crusher? Are you in control or not? Demonstrate some real leadership and publicly tell your candidates to stop telling blatant lies on social media. There are so many of them doing it.
She needs to stop taking her advice on political strategy from Cameron Slater.

Donald Trump will be back to be a thorn in the flesh of socialism and communism's attempt to reclaim the world.

New Zealand politics is in a very sad state. The only honest thing I have heard any of them say in the last three years was that young green one (Cleo or Chloe perhaps?) who stated that she was overpaid. But the thing that saddens me most is way New Zealand media has polarised itself. It is very obvious to the reader which party each media outlet supports (including ODT). The headlines all boost one party and denigrate the other. Most articles are as promotionally focused as the party's paid commercials (but are undeclared as donations to party advertising). And even the photography denigrates one and always shows the other with professional quality lighting. Me thinks all media outlets should be required to state their political bias clearly on their front page, should have to declare bias articles as campaign contributions, and the rules changed to illegalise all photos of politicians beyond one registered and standardised mug shot taken when they enter parliament. Alternatively we should declare the election to be beauty pageant, photographed in swimwear, and have all candidates interviewed by Gracie Hart on, say, "world peace".

Agreed, I have noticed the "allowing" of some quite denigrating comments on here against one party yet any comments against the media's preferred party are not "allowed suggesting clear bias, it's also about time the media recognized there are more than two political partys in NZ.

 

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