It took Judith Collins just a week as National Party leader to show us how nasty she can be.
Having sacked an errant backbencher who deserved it, she was asked in a media interview if she had received any similar tips about Labour ministers or MPs. "I have, actually," she replied.
She hadn't, actually. She'd heard that the married Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, had an affair with a woman who used to work in his office and now works in a department that comes under his portfolio.
To put that in the same category as an MP sending unwelcome indecent images to young women is an insult to affairs of the heart. Both were "inappropriate" – a term that covers a range of sins as wide as the definition of "mental health issues" these days – but that's where the comparison ends.
We were told nothing more about the woman who had a relationship with Lees-Galloway but, if she was very young or a victim of unwelcome advances from him, we assuredly would have heard about it. For Collins then told her interviewer she had relayed her "tip-off" to the Prime Minister, a public revelation that would force Jacinda Ardern to say something about it.
This little drama tells us not only how nasty Collins can be but how weak Ardern is. Rather than answer the inevitable questions with a mature comment on a matter of personal and family privacy, she sacked him.
Then, knowing extra-marital affairs are not exactly rare at Parliament or anywhere else, she had to think of a reason to make this one different. That's when we would have heard had there been anything about it that was less than consensual or involved an abuse of power.
The only reason Ardern could come up with was that Lees-Galloway was Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety and, "has not modelled the behaviour I expect as a minister in charge of setting a standard and culture in workplaces".
What a prim, purse-lipped, precious little place we have become. A 41-year-old man's career has been ruined for a love affair that lasted a year, which means it was probably genuine. It ended a few months ago, which means he and his wife, if she knew, have probably been trying to work it out. If she didn't know, she does now.
And his three children, who quite likely didn't know, not only now know but so do their friends and school classmates, their grandparents and wider families, everyone who knows any of the family. Those children will be scarred by this for the rest of their lives. Thank you, Judith Collins.
There's a reason subjects such as this are usually kept out of politics even when they are fairly common knowledge around Parliament, as the press gallery reports this one was. It will not be the only one.
The reason is not just that families will be hurt but that intimate human relationships are as complex and varied as the people involved and only they have a hope of understanding the one they are in. It is never wise for anybody else to pass judgement.
This affair has told us much more about the character of the two people who aspire to lead us than about a minister whose handling of a deportation issue a few years ago showed he was not the sharpest of operators but he was conscientious and compassionate.
A prime minister constantly comes under pressure to sack ministers for transgressions, large and small. Ardern has rightly resisted most of them and has been unfairly castigated for it. Perhaps this time she felt she had to match Collins' decisive action against Andrew Falloon but she should not have let that influence her decision in a significantly different case.
I'm not surprised Ardern lacked that strength, I'm more disappointed in Collins. She had started so well.
Her simple, straight, honest answers to every question put to her in her first week in the leadership were wonderfully refreshing. A typical response - and the one I relished most - was to the question of saving the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.
"No," she told Mike Yardley on Newstalk ZB, "I'm sick of it." And she went on to castigate a multinational that made a profit in billions last year and has its hand out to the New Zealand taxpayer. Go her.
Then came her announcement National would charge returning New Zealanders for accommodation in quarantine after Todd Muller had said it would not. Of course they should pay something. As soon as Collins said so, the Government stopped dithering on the subject for the past two months and followed suit. It was like Collins was governing already.
But now this. She had no need to do it. When strength turns vicious, voters turn away.