Patrick Gower on politics

Patrick Gower is a Herald political writer

Patrick Gower: Step aside, Judith, Paula's coming

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Judith Collins' leadership ambitions have been smashed to smithereens. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Judith Collins' leadership ambitions have been smashed to smithereens. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It was the week the Crusher got crushed. Sure, Judith Collins technically got off the hook once again because the Prime Minister is too scared to do anything about her with the election so close.

But Collins' political reputation has taken a hammering thanks to the revelations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics.

Her political ambitions have been damaged. And her leadership hopes are now smashed to smithereens.

Just over 18 months ago, I named Collins my Politician of the Year after she barnstormed her way into contention to take over as National Party leader when John Key stands down.

Collins had a growing support base with National's rank-and-file. She was building her profile nicely.

The received political wisdom was that the leadership was between her and Steven Joyce should Key lose or quit.

Then came the Oravida scandal. Collins handled it poorly and ended up having a blow-out.

The Prime Minister then got out one of his sopping wet tickets to the Crusher bus and banned her from Twitter.

Collins lost a lot of her political capital over Oravida and gained a whole lot of political baggage.

After that came the hacked messages showing she tipped off the Whale Oil blogger to the name and number of a public servant, opening him up to attack.

There was also talk of how the two of them like revenge, with Collins explaining: : "You know the rule — always return with double."

It was ugly and unsavoury stuff. You don't need to be a political scientist to recognise this is not the back-story of a party leader — quite the opposite.

My National Party sources tell me that Collins now might not even have a single MP in the caucus who would back her to take the leadership.

The sources say even the tight core that was around her a year ago have fallen away.

As for Joyce, just because you are Key's lieutenant doesn't mean you automatically become general.

Consider his extraordinarily unhinged performance on The Nation three weeks ago.

He looked like he was talking in tongues as he tried to boss his way through a debate by yelling over everyone, including host Lisa Owen. It was arrogant, and hardly the stuff of a future leader.

If Joyce acts like that on live television, imagine what he is like in the caucus room or around the Cabinet table. He does not play well with others.

So who in National is likeable, can keep their ego in check, doesn't have any baggage but does have public appeal and the chutzpah to be leader? Paula Bennett.

When Bennett walks into National's campaign launch today, the party faithful won't be judging her like they will be Collins.

They will be looking at Bennett approvingly, and Collins with barely concealed disappointment.

Winner of the Week? Phil Goff. He got to use the soundbite "John Key is a liar" so often it became a mantra. It was utu — and boy did Goff enjoy it.

Loser of the Week? John Key — say no more.

• Patrick Gower is the political editor of 3News. He also co-hosts The Nation on Saturdays.

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- Herald on Sunday

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