National MP Judith Collins says she will stand for Parliament again in 2017 even if there is pressure on her to go and she is not reinstated as a minister.
The Weekend Herald spoke to Ms Collins and her National Party colleagues about her increased profile in the media in recent weeks. Ms Collins is yet to learn whether she will be reinstated as a minister in future.
Ms Collins said she will stand again in 2017 if that did not happen, even if the Prime Minister, John Key, asked her to go to make way for fresh blood.
"I've no interest in that. I've been here for 13 years. That's the same amount of time as the Prime Minister. There are plenty of people who have been here longer than me."
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Ms Collins also put paid to speculation she might run for the Auckland mayoralty next year. She said some people had asked her to but she had told them she was not interested. "I need to restore my reputation after the battering it got last year."
The speculation appears to have been fuelled by Chinese whispers after a Global Women's retreat in Queenstown this month. Former National president Michelle Boag spoke at the retreat about the need for a female contender as mayor. Straight after Ms Boag, Ms Collins stood up to talk about another issue and the timing prompted laughter. Ms Boag said Ms Collins had not indicated she was interested in the role.
Ms Collins said she won a 5000-vote majority in her Papakura electorate last year, despite an inquiry into whether she had tried to undermine former Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley. She was also facing controversy over leaked messages in Dirty Politics between herself and blogger Cam Slater, and her meetings with Oravida of which her husband was a director.
She did want to be a minister again, but it was the Prime Minister's call, she said. There were pros and cons to being on the backbench, including being able to speak about issues she could not speak on as a minister. Ms Collins denied she was a ringleader of a caucus revolt against the Health and Safety Reform Bill which resulted in the bill being delayed while National considers changes. However, she defended her decision to speak publicly about that bill saying she knew the issue well and represented a lot of small businesses and the rural sector which would be impacted by it.
Ms Collins was stood down as a minister last year during the inquiry. It found no evidence of wrongdoing. Mr Key has not ruled out a return for Ms Collins, saying she was one of several contenders if a gap opened.