Housing Minister Phil Twyford has got in the first jabs in what is shaping up to be a humdinger battle against National's new housing spokeswoman Judith Collins, describing her as "the epitome of the old school, hard-hearted Nat."
Collins will be National's fourth ranked MP and will go up against Twyford in Housing and Urban Development after National leader Simon Bridges' reshuffle yesterday.
Bridges highlighted Collins' appointment, saying: "Phil Twyford is on notice: Judith is coming."
He later said Twyford would not get much sleep after the news he would be facing off against Collins.
In response, Twyford said he would sleep fine and he was more worried about those who'd had to sleep in cars under National's reign.
He referred to Collins' nickname of 'Crusher'.
"I think you need a builder not a crusher in the housing portfolio."
"If there's one thing National should have learned after nine years, it's that Kiwis want more compassion. But Judith Collins is the epitome of the old-school, hard-hearted Nat. Housing is National's Achilles heel. I wonder whether this is Simon Bridges setting her up for failure."
Collins laughed off Twyford's response: "Oh dear, he's forgotten he's in Government."
"Phil needs to stop personally attacking me and start focusing on delivering for New Zealanders. He must be very rattled."
She said Labour had made "enormous promises" with little understanding of what was required to meet them.
"They have very little understanding around some of the big issues round capital, and the time delays."
Collins was one of the winners in the reshuffle but the real bolters were comparatively unknown MPs Paul Goldsmith, Jami-Lee Ross and Mark Mitchell.
Bridges said those MPs might not be that well known to the wider public, but he knew them well and was confident they would do well in the jobs they had.
Ross is the only one on the front bench who has not been a minister before, but Bridges said he had worked well strategically as party whip.
Bridges' reshuffle also delivered to those who contested the leadership against him – Amy Adams and Collins secured high rankings, Mark Mitchell moved from 21 to seven, and Adams' loyalist Nikki Kaye moved up to 10 from 12.
Goldsmith was elevated from 14 to nine and will take on Regional Development Minister Shane Jones as well as Revenue. Bridges has appointed two further regional development spokespeople – Jonathan Young is responsible for North Island issues and Stuart Smith for South Island.
It was also good news for Melissa Lee and Sarah Dowie, the only other two in the Shadow Cabinet of 20 who have not been ministers before. Lee moved into the Shadow Cabinet
However, the reshuffle will have left some disappointed. Despite Bridges' naming 2014 MPs such as Sarah Dowie, Todd Muller and Stuart Smith as impressive, only Dowie was given a high placing. Smith and Muller had moved up but were at 33 and 34 respectively.
Some of the longer standing MPs may also be licking their wounds – Maggie Barry dropped from 19 to outside the shadow Cabinet, Gerry Brownlee moved down from four to 11 and lost the Foreign Affairs portfolio to Todd McClay, but Brownlee did get the Shadow Leader of the House role he had wanted as well as the spy agencies and the America's Cup.
Former Speaker David Carter had also dropped out of the shadow Cabinet from 17 to 22 with the State Owned Enterprises portfolio. There has long been speculation he expects to leave and Carter's Wellington based apartment is up for sale.
Carter said he was just "testing the market" and it did not mean he was about to go. He said that decision would be made when he was ready.
The news was worse for former housing minister Nick Smith, a former front bencher who had already been moved down to 18th ranking by former leader Bill English and will now be at 26.
He has lower profile roles of Electoral Reform and state services. Bridges said he believed Labour would embark on electoral reforms beyond NZ First's waka jumping bill. He denied it was a hint to Smith that he should not stand again in 2020 saying that was a decision for Smith to make. Smith, who is now National's longest serving MP, expected to make that decision in about 18 months.
Ups and downs
: Up five from nine to four — gets housing and urban development, RMA.
: Up eight from 13 to five — foreign affairs and trade.
: Up 14 from 21 to seven — justice and defence.
: Up 19 from 27 to eight — infrastructure and transport.
: Up five from 14 to nine — economic development.
: Up 12 from 31 to 19 — into shadow cabinet with broadcasting and ethnic communities.
: Up to 20 from unranked — into shadow cabinet with conservation.
: Down eight from 18 to 26 — out of shadow cabinet, gets electoral reform and state services.
: Down seven from 17 to 22 — out of shadow cabinet, gets state owned enterprises.
: Down seven to 11 and loses foreign affairs, but gets shadow leader of the house and spies.
: Down six from 19 to 25 and loses conservation, keeps seniors and veterans.