'Born to rule' perception costly

John Key.
John Key.
Prime Minister John Key has spent a lot of effort recently defending Judith Collins, at a time when he would probably like to be promoting his Government's economic record.

With Budget 2014 due for release next week, Mr Key has been sidetracked with not only defending Ms Collins, and requiring her to take some leave to recover from the hounding she has been taking over her visit to Oravida, but by also sacking Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson from Cabinet duties.

Labour has had an extraordinarily good week, despite Parliament not sitting, as it and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters continue to attack Ms Collins for getting herself tangled up on what she did or did not do to help Oravida, a company with which her husband is associated.

Labour MP Grant Robertson has been particularly effective in probing the dealings in China of Ms Collins, who finds herself changing her story almost daily as more revelations are discovered.

Prime Minister John Key says the Collins affair is not one which will lose National the election, but there is certainly time for Labour and NZ First to land more telling blows before September 20.

Ms Collins attended question time in Parliament yesterday and is expected to front again today before taking some time off.

But she is expected to return before the Budget - the last thing Mr Key should have allowed to happen.

Even yesterday, he spent several hours defending Ms Collins, who has now disappeared from Twitter, the social media medium which has caused her no end of problems in recent days.

Once the prime tweeter of National, she fell silent yesterday, saying it was not a place for her to be.

She now regrets the Oravida dinner, not because of any perceived conflict of interest, but because of the furore it has produced.

There is absolutely no hint of contrition by the Justice Minister nicknamed ''Crusher''.

It was Ms Collins who criticised Dunedin-based Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei's jackets, calling her a ''sensitive wee sausage'' when Mrs Turei objected to the ''racist'' taunts.

It turns out, Crusher is not as immune to criticism as some might believe.

And Maurice Williamson was simply stupid to telephone the police seeking clarification on a domestic violence dispute relating to wealthy businessman Donghua Liu.

Why Mr Williamson believed he could openly telephone the police, despite telling them he did not want to influence the process, is beyond comprehension.

The fact Mr Liu, who like Oravida is a substantial contributor to National Party coffers, has a holiday home beside Mr Williamson's in Pauanui, should have been warning enough.

Labour has been struggling in the polls and to get traction in the media, but National's sudden return to the ''born to rule'' sense of entitlement has given the party a boost, helped yesterday by leader David Cunliffe finally settling on his strongest possible line-up for the election campaign.

Any hurt National caused by luring outspoken list MP Shane Jones from Labour into a job as a roving ambassador for the Pacific Islands has healed.

Labour finance spokesman David Parker released a monetary policy upgrade which has people talking about how KiwiSaver may be used to reduce inflation, rather than just interest rates.

Compulsory KiwiSaver membership is definitely on the table and, unexpectedly, Labour is making the running while the Government fights for any good news.

Mr Key used the demotion of Mr Williamson to move Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner into Cabinet, another nod to trying to retain the party vote in the earthquake-damaged city.

Dunedin-based list MP and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse picks up another responsibility.

But National looks like a party for sale to the wealthy and there is nowhere to hide.

Mr Key often makes use of his state house upbringing in Christchurch to show how he is in touch with real New Zealand.

Unfortunately for him, a sector of the community, and some of his caucus, still apparently believe money talks.

This perception will be difficult to live down.

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