This is the last in the Leaders Unplugged series, where Herald journalists show a different side to our politicians. Today, Claire Trevett has afternoon tea with National
Party leader Judith Collins. Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern declined a request to take part in the series.
Long before she became Crusher, National Party leader Judith had a very different nickname.
It was Mummy's Little Baby All the Way From Heaven.
This nickname was given to Collins by her mother, rather obviously, who thought Collins was a little angel.
Collins was the youngest of six children by seven years. One older sister, Margaret, had died as a baby.
Collins was, by her own admission, very irritating.
"I was irritating because I was spoiled. I was the youngest by a long way and so I was Mummy's little baby all the way from heaven. That's what she called me. I was an irritating little sibling."
Collins told us this over afternoon tea in her new office, the Leader of the Opposition's office.
It was a week since she became the National Party's delivery all the way from heaven – the person they hoped could deliver at least some salvation from the storms that had come their way.
That was, of course, a rather more tenuous and conditional position than being Mother's little baby, but Collins grabs opportunity where it comes.
She got there by a rather tortuous route. Bill English begat Simon Bridges who begat Todd Muller who begat Judith Collins – all in rather quick succession.
So now it was Collins we were sitting with, rather than Muller with whom we had planned to be sitting with.
Collins had offered up afternoon tea by way of an activity. As a bonus, we could watch her unpack some boxes after an earlier admission that she found housework therapeutic.
She walked into the office pushing a trolley laden with tea treats.
There was Earl Grey tea and fine bone china, because tea tastes better in it. There are three-tiered plate stands carrying little sandwiches with the crusts removed and macarons and little cakes.
Collins set about delicately pouring tea, and offering milk and sugar.
For some reason, she has adopted a hushed, rather posh tone to befit the occasion.
Earl Grey is "an elegant drink". One does not stick one's pinky finger out, because that is common.
All of this makes it feel a bit Downton Abbey, albeit with Collins in the roles of both Mrs Hughes and the Dowager Countess at the same time.
She chose a sandwich - she has heard you can get quite crabby if you do not eat food.
"That's probably why I'm so good-natured."
When I observe a treat is sweet and tart at the same time, she says "just like me".
Collins is almost certainly her publisher's little baby – her recently published book was topping the New Zealand best sellers list.
That book has the title of Pull No Punches.
You will not read everything about Judith Collins in that book. She prefaced some stories by declaring whether they were or were not in the book.
One of the things you won't read is a story that makes her choke up when she tells it.
It is the story about her childhood stammer.
"I have this memory of me as a little child standing by the nice yellow formica kitchen table. I must have been very little, because I was looking up, and trying to speak and not being able to."
Her voice is breaking as she tells this, and after she ends there is a short silence.
She quietly wipes an eye, perhaps surprised herself at how much it had affected her in the re-telling, this story about a little girl at a kitchen table trying to get her words out.
The camera had been off for this story, so she agreed to repeat it for the camera and also revealed how she was cured, courtesy of the NZ Woman's Weekly.
Her mother's own childhood stammer was solved by reciting poetry, but by the time Collins came along, the NZ Woman's Weekly was the "fount of most knowledge".
She had read in the NZ Woman's Weekly that if she could get Collins to say "I stammer" it would help overcome her fear.
"There must be scientific ways of looking at this, but I can tell you the NZ Woman's Weekly helped me," Collins says.
Her mother did steer her daughter to quite different reading material when Collins was older.
"In the 70s my mother bought me the books of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and suggested I read them. And I did. And I always knew I was at least as good as everyone else I had to deal with."
"Except at sports," the NZ Herald pointed out.
Collins had earlier confessed she was "pretty average" at sports. It was possibly the only time you would hear Collins admit to being "pretty average".
"Yes. Except at sports, but at least I tried hard," Collins says.
"Well not very hard, actually. I did what I had to do."
Collins' family had lived some distance from other children, so she spent more time in the company of adults. This made her shy around other children.
Her best friend was a dog called Lou.
"In the earliest photos of me, I've always got the dog. It was mostly Lou, he was the farm dog at that time, because I was too frightened of the photographer."
Animals have always been part of her life. This year she lost both dog Holly, and then cat Minnie the day after she became leader.
For the first time in a very long time, she now has no pets.
"We will have to wait until after the election to think about the cat and dog situation."
Collins also once enjoyed singing and playing the piano.
The NZ Herald had arranged for Parliament's piano to be unlocked in the hopes of a recital.
But Collins has wisely decided if you cannot do something well, do not do it publicly.
She will not sing or play for us.
"[As a child] I was always in the choir, and operettas and stuff. I love showing off if I know what I'm doing."
The latter statement comes as little surprise.
Collins' famous eyebrow twitches. "I know. It's amazing, the way I've overcome my natural shyness."
The house cleaning was another reminder of her childhood.
After her siblings left home, Collins was in charge of the housework.
"I don't really want to do it, but it's quite useful. It gets something done and I have time to think. Some people do yoga, and I do housework."
After watching Collins unpack a box of masks she had picked up on her travels, the NZ Herald left.
Collins had some house-cleaning of a different type to get on with.
Just before this interview, Collins had announced MP Andrew Falloon would not be standing again due to circumstances that were not clear.
The reason – Falloon allegedly sent lewd images to young women - was not known publicly at that point, and Collins was refusing to reveal them.
It is fair to say dealing with that mess was not at all akin to yoga.