Come the end of the lockdowns, Judith Collins may well find her MPs have devised an elimination strategy of their own: A strategy to eliminate her.
The numbers that Collins needs to be scared of are 25 or 26.
If National gets around 25 or 26 per cent in the next round of polls, MPs are muttering about whether it will spell the end of her leadership – even as soon as October.
That will particularly be the case if Act continues to rise – and nudges toward the 20 per cent mark.
It is also now increasingly clear that when that time comes, the person who will execute it will be Simon Bridges.
The polls will be the trigger, but it is the lockdown and Collins' lack of political judgment that have seen her odds on surviving into the next year plummeting.
Prior to the lockdown, Collins might have had until next February to pull up the nose of her plane.
She might have even made it to the election had she capitalised on Labour's support faltering.
But MPs' eyebrows rose when she decided the middle of lockdown was a good time to do a reshuffle. Even in a crisis, National was still busy dealing with itself.
They rose further at Collins' handling of the return to Parliament and an interview on TVNZ's Breakfast show, after which Collins lashed out at the presenter for having a "political agenda".
She was in a no-win situation: Either stay in Auckland and be invisible or get back to Wellington and be visible but not necessarily for the right reasons.
Collins' trouble was that she spent almost the whole week talking about her return to Parliament rather than the issues she said she wanted to return to Parliament to talk about.
Once again, it was Collins who was pulled off message in pursuit of trying to stay on message.
And it happened at a time when others are casting round for excuses to scrap her – or at least keeping file notes of transgressions for such a time.
The Government did not have a good week – there were questions about whether the vaccines would run dry and a Covid case fleeing quarantine.
But Collins still somehow managed to have a worse week. And it has turned vague mutterings about a leadership coup into something a little more serious.
Bridges has so far been content to sit back and wait as Collins struggles along, presumably hoping it gets so bad that caucus is jolted out of its somnolent state and comes to him.
Bridges' allies will be more than happy to turn quiet talks about a move early next year into a 2021 move - and start convincing other MPs it is the only option.
It is increasingly clear he is the only other option, not least because he is the only one who might be able to get the numbers for it.
It is now fairly clear it won't be Christopher Luxon who rolls Collins this term – he will wait.
The ideal timing for Luxon would be for Collins to get a drubbing in 2023 and for it to then become clear to everybody – including Collins – that Collins is not the answer. He will not want to run the risk of losing an election.
The trouble is that what might be best for Luxon's chances in the long term are not necessarily what is best for National or for the rest of the MPs in the shorter term.
Another drubbing in 2023 would result in another weak caucus for 2023–2026, and a weak platform for a rebuild.
They need someone who can get them back to at least the mid-30s and they need that someone before 2023. Collins has had 18 months and while Labour has fallen, National has not risen.
It's not great timing for Bridges either. Alas perfect timing does not always coincide with opportunity.
Not everybody will think Bridges is the best choice, but he may be the only Not Collins choice.
Bridges could probably get the numbers he needed now; many of his old supporters are still in caucus.
But he will not want to move unless he can get almost all MPs, bar Collins' rusted-on supporters, to back the change.
That will partly depend on the liberal wing - MPs such as Chris Bishop, Nicola Willis and Erica Stanford. The first two engineered his downfall in 2020. But political desperation can trump old grievances.
In that respect, Collins may have done more to help secure Bridges his numbers than Bridges has done himself.
Her reshuffle saw Bishop stripped of his treasured position of Shadow Leader of the House – a key strategic position.
It can only be seen as disciplinary action for his open dissatisfaction with the caucus position on the conversion therapy legislation.
That has created another humiliated, disgruntled MP - and Bishop has allies.
The traditional advice is generally to keep your enemies close, not to create more of them.
The suspicion and fear predicted after Collins dispensed with Todd Muller has come to pass.
Her danger is she creates so many groups of disgruntled MPs that in seeking to divide and conquer, she unites them in conquering her.
The liberal MPs were always going to be the hardest for Bridges – a social conservative – to get onside.
The reason that might not be fatal to Bridges' chances of securing their support is that they may now like Collins less.
The liberal camp do not have the numbers in caucus to anoint their own person.
This is simply not their time.
They may conclude that that time has more chance of coming in the future under a leader who can improve the 2023 election result.
Bridges will not want to be seen to be agitating for it, but he would have to do some hard work himself.
Not least will be proving to the caucus that he has grown over the past 18 months.
They will not necessarily be convinced by the more public rehabilitation efforts Bridges has undergone.
There also still remains the question whether he can convince the wider public he is the man for the job.
That's what he's been beavering away at for the last 18 months, a one-man humanising mission on social media, the television shows, the book.
Do not believe his schtick about his new book being "too honest" to be a pitch for another go at the leadership.
But Bridges was felled by the last Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, not what came before it.
Collins has many advantages Bridges did not have then.
The Government now has 18 months of a track record on the Covid response. For all the successes, there are also failings to pick at.
Bridges did not have the advantage of a dawdling vaccination campaign – in his time, there was no vaccination at all. MIQ had barely started.
In the lockdown in which Bridges was leader, Ardern was sanctified and the Government did not have a record on which to hold it to account.
The question is whether Collins can start to capitalise on the failings.
If she continues to have worse weeks than the Government - tick tock, tick tock.