Judith Collins had to swallow a dead rat this week and apologise for not divulging every detail of her trip to China, in particular, a dinner with executives from a company in which her husband has an interest.

Apologies don't come easy to politicians like Collins. The Justice Minister leads with her chin. Attack for her is the best form of defence.

If Margaret Thatcher hadn't uttered the immortal line, "The lady is not for turning", then Collins surely would have. That's what makes her such a good politician - but the downside is that if her judgment and instincts let her down, she's left vulnerable.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has revealed she had a dinner with the head of Oravida and a senior Chinese government official while in China last year and admits she was wrong not to disclose the dinner last week. Mrs Collins has been under pressure to explain her dealings with the milk company Oravida, where her husband is a director.

The Prime Minister made it clear he was most displeased with his senior Cabinet minister, and it's rare you see John Key anything other than comfortable.

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When he told journalists that if any further surprises came out about the trip to China, he wouldn't want to be in her shoes, he wasn't opening up another spat about wardrobe choices.

It was his way of saying she was one strike down. Two more and her political aspirations would be crushed.

The Opposition has been baying for her blood and must be delighted to have wounded such a senior government figure just days after the election date was announced.

Collins will survive this brouhaha but there's a lesson for all of us stroppy scrappers. Napoleon Bonaparte exhorted politicians to never retreat, never retract and never admit a mistake, but he ended up defeated in battle and died in exile. That's a fate for any of us who fail to recognise the virtue of humility.