The National Party is in a bizarre situation. The leader, Dr Brash, is tailoring his actions to fit every cliche the political commentators wish to roll out. He says he's visiting constituents out in the heartland - we say he's gone awol. He pays an innocent visit to an interesting boat - we say he's walking the plank. He climbs into a racing car - we taunt him that he is in a tight squeeze.

While we columnists might accurately be dismissed as bores with opinions, it appears The Don's days as leader are numbered. And not just because of last weekend's disastrous - for Brash - poll. His demise has been on the horizon for some time and, perhaps because he lacks naked ambition, Brash has done little to dispel the perception that he's too old, too tired, and his heart ain't in the job.

This is a pity, because Brash is a clever person who genuinely wants all New Zealanders to be well-educated, happy, prosperous, and, more importantly for the right, independent of Nanny State.

On a personal basis, he's an extremely pleasant person, to the point of being disarmingly ingenuous.

True, he brought 22 new MPs into the House last election but that was last year. What's he done since? Not much. And unlike his deputy, Gerry Brownlee, who's adept at being briefed, Brash has a reputation for ignoring advice.

So what to do?

Leadership change is a strange process. Potential leaders are judged by three conflicting pools of opinion - the caucus, the party, and the public. The general public, when quizzed by the pollsters about their preferred prime minister, can push someone like John Key into the limelight and up the scale.

But that doesn't equate with whether that person has the skills, talent and experience to lead, nor does it mean that person has the support of caucus and the party membership.

In fact, in the twisted world of political parties, one MP's meteoric rise can cause jealous mutterings, double-crossings, whispers to the media and all-round back-stabbing. This is closely followed by collective schadenfreude when said high-flying MP comes a cropper. And that's from MPs supposed to be working as a team.

Hence John Key's deliberate attempt recently to keep his head below the parapet.

But someone has to succeed Brash before the next election, and in the game of eeny-meeny between pretenders Gerry Brownlee, John Key, Bill English and Simon Power, the most obvious successor is being overlooked.

She's New Zealand's answer to Margaret Thatcher - Judith Collins, MP for Clevedon, whose achievements listed on her own website make the rest of us weak with admiration. She's in her mid-40s, yet she's been a director of several companies, president of the Auckland District Law Society (she has a Master of Laws with Honours), run several law firms plus a business school, provided expert tax advice, owned two restaurants, sold shoes, waitressed, nursed in a maternity hospital, married a policeman some 25 years ago and raised a son.

She is currently, you could argue, the only one in the National caucus with big kahunas, yet her wardrobe, with soft blues, lemons, or black-and-white, is straight from leading ladies' designer Adrienne Winkelman.

Indeed, the similarities to Baroness Thatcher are remarkable. Both were born into middle-class families. Margaret Thatcher was also a barrister who specialised in tax. She was promoted early to the front bench. In 1961 she voted against the party line in favour of bringing back birching. In her third term as Prime Minister, Thatcher reformed welfare and introduced a work-for-the-dole scheme.

In New Zealand's recent debate about inter-generational welfare dependency, Judith Collins has led the charge for reform. While I have no reason to believe Collins favours the re-introduction of corporal punishment, one can imagine her taking a theoretical stick to lazy buggers who won't get off their butts and earn a living.

Collins recently remarked that she didn't mind being offensive. Thatcher proclaimed to be particularly cheered if an insult was personal because it indicated her opponent had nothing political to throw at her. Collins once commented along the lines that she'd never felt she needed to prove her femininity. Thatcher famously said that being powerful was like being a lady, "if you have to tell people you are, you aren't".

And in what surely must be the ultimate compliment to Judith Collins, the Alliance Party recently labelled her a "threat to society".

Remember, it was the Soviet media who first handed Thatcher her moniker, the Iron Lady.

Someone should feed Collins' photo into the website that matches doppelgangers - with her carriage, pearls and colouring, she even looks like Margaret Thatcher.

National needs a Helen Clark to boss them into shape and quit pussy-footing. Who better than no-nonsense Collins - not Wonder Woman, but maybe a Prime Minister-in-Waiting?