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National Party leadership contender Judith Collins has set herself a performance threshold of 35% in the polls if she wins the leadership.
In an interview with the New Zealand Herald today after announcing her bid for the leadership, following Bll English's decision to leave politics, she also promised a review of all National’s policies, including questioning one of its key promises of 2017: tax cuts.
National is still polling at about 44.5% and a new leader’s job will be trying to hold that. She said Labour had shown what the tipping point was before a leader ran into trouble.
“Once things start getting under 35 percent people start saying ‘can we win?' And I know I am putting a mark up there which at some stage in the future, if I am successful this time, that people will say ‘well, you set that mark.
“Yep, let me set that mark.”
Collins said she did not necessarily believe tax cuts were a priority.
National had campaigned on its Family Incomes Package which included tax cuts from mid-2018 and signalled a further round in 2020.
“I don’t know that that is the biggest thing people want, actually. I think people want some very sensible expenditure, but better than that, outcomes in some of the areas they are missing out on.”
While her rivals Amy Adams and Simon Bridges declined to talk about policies or the direction they believed National should go, Collins today signalled she would review many of National’s policies.
“I think it’s always good to review all policies when you become the leader.”
Collins said the caucus unity any new leader would get would depend on the polls.
“What you do is you show by results. If you can deliver in the polls, then you can deliver for that particular caucus. And if you deliver, strangely enough you get there.”
Collins also believed she would be able to do better than Bill English would have done in 2020. She said he had good attributes and she did not want to denigrate his legacy.
“But I do know, coming into Opposition, I know how tough it is. And I know you need a decisive and strong leader. And I also know you need to be able to reach out to other parties.”
Collins takes swing at PM
Collins took a swing at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier today, saying Ardern talks about herself “and her feelings” too much.
Collins said she recognised Ardern was “a formidable opponent. And people have underestimated her at their peril.
“But the main thing with Jacinda Ardern, it seems to me, is that it’s all about her. What we need to do is to be very focused on the people, on New Zealanders and what is being delivered or not delivered to them.
“I think she talks a lot about herself and her feelings. I think what she really should be doing is focused on the people.”
She said others might have a problem taking on Ardern out of concern of a backlash because Ardern was a young woman and pregnant.
“I have been pregnant, running a law firm and studying as well. As a young mum I understand exactly how tough it is to do that role and undertake a very difficult and tough role. But she understands that too.
“That is the way she has chosen to do that and I always support people when they want to have children. But that’s not the point. That is not the role she’s asked New Zealanders to support her for.
"She has asked them to make her and to keep her as Prime Minister of New Zealand. And that is the role I would hold her to account for.”
Collins also put in a pitch to her caucus colleagues, saying this was the first chance in more than a decade to have a “real” say on the leadership.
“This is their chance. They can either do the status quo and more of the same. Or they can understand this is a real war, a real battle we are in and the National Party, if it wants to really be in there in 2020, we are going to have to do things a bit differently.”
She said she did not intend to withdraw from the ballot, even if became clear she would not win. Nor would she leave Parliament if she lost, saying she was voted in by Papakura and that meant a lot.
“There’s no way I’m going anywhere.”
Collins said whoever got the leadership would be in for a tough time ahead as it was hard to counter the effect of things like Budgets “and dishing out money and doing things they think will buy them votes.”
She said what was needed was somebody who had real experience in Opposition and been effective at it.
“We need to have very decisiveness and strong leadership in Opposition, and that’s something I can bring.”
Collins said she had approached people to advise them she would be happy for them to be her deputy and some had approached her. However, she said it was a matter for caucus.
Paula Bennett has said she wants to stay in the role, so any contenders would have to challenge her. Collins said she would work with whoever caucus told her she’d have to.
- By Claire Trevett