Three leaders in less than two months . . .
New Zealand’s centre-right opposition National Party is churning through leaders and senior MPs at an alarming rate, with veteran MP Judith Collins becoming the party’s new leader following the surprise resignation of Todd Muller. Muller, citing health concerns, stepped down after holding the opposition’s top job for only 53 days. Collins, a pugnacious politician who has served in multiple portfolios as Minister under former Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English, had unsuccessfully run for party leadership twice previously. Her new position as Leader of the Opposition comes barely two months before New Zealand’s general election on September 19.
The opposition in disarray . . .
All is not right in the party’s upper echelons, with several party stalwarts jumping ship in recent days. Nikki Kaye, Deputy Leader under Muller, and Amy Adams, who came out of political retirement to be Muller’s spokesperson on post-COVID recovery, announced separately they would be leaving politics in the hours after Collins’ confirmation as the party leader. Paula Bennett, former Deputy Leader in opposition and Deputy Prime Minister, announced she would not contest the September election. And a major scandal involving leaked personal information of COVID-19 patients led to the resignation of a junior MP and the demotion of the party’s health spokesperson.
Looking to the election in September . . .
With the governing Labour Party and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comfortably leading in polls after their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, political observers could be excused for thinking the general election will be a lost cause for the National Party. Yet Collins has other ideas. Her first campaign announcement was a C$27.5 billion transportation infrastructure pledge aimed at reducing congestion and lost productivity in Auckland and surrounding cities, home to about half of New Zealand’s population. The country’s election in September will be the second to be contested with women leading both major parties, the first being in 1999. If Collins and the National Party are to unseat Labour, they will need to convince New Zealanders that their big promises will be supported by solid and capable follow through, a prospect that may be a tall order given the slate of recent departures.
- New Zealand Herald (video): Judith Collins unveils NZ$31B transport plan for Auckland
- Radio New Zealand: Week in politics: Collins moves fast to fix National Party
- Stuff: Todd Muller resigns as leader of the National Party