The National Party will look to reset its election campaign under Judith Collins — their fourth leader since the Coalition Government took office.
The role of Opposition leader is an unenviable one at any time. Under the combative Westminister style of democracy, the job is to hold the government to account. By nature, it entails carping and criticising at any potential flaw in the country's leadership. It starts in a negative position and seldom provides the opportunity to shift on to a positive footing.
Collins is an experienced politician, comfortable in many situations, and the person many thought should have taken over the leadership after Bill English. But she will have her work cut out.
By most accounts, Todd Muller is a good man. Consoling words came quickly after his resignation from all sides of the House, and are clearly sincere and heartfelt.
But as a leader, he air-balled just about every shot he was handed. As our editorial stated on July 9, he was looking for a place to put a foot right.
Muller should have moved more quickly to force the resignation of a junior MP who abused patient information. He should have been faster to provide straight answers about who knew what and when. The source of the leaked patient information, Michelle Boag, should have been summarily excised from the party.
A pending investigation by former solicitor general Mike Heron, QC, was only going to uncover more difficult questions to answer. Some have pointed to historical ploys by National as proof "dirty politics" runs deep in the party culture, and these leaked patient details as proof it thrives.
But reviewing the footage of this scandal seems to reveal less of a malevolent party machine and more of a floundering cluster of individuals in varying stages of desperation to interrupt a conversation about how well the Government is doing.
Muller's discomfort at being questioned on the leaked patient information was visible. His diction was far from that of a consummate performer. He was evasive and only drew more scrutiny. These are not the mannerisms of a Machiavellian.
By last Wednesday, Muller stood, shoulders unabashedly slumped in front of cameras, to attempt announcing a proposed highway in Canterbury. He was peppered with questions about Boag, Walker, Michael Woodhouse and his own actions. His plea for "any questions about the road" was piteous. His road was already running out.
After just 53 days, Muller now has the record for the shortest tenure leading the National Party. Bill English was previously the shortest, with 1 year and 77 days. Collins will know only too well there are 66 days until the General Election. She knows it will be a monumental task to better English's record.
Last week, we referred to the Boag affair as "an own-goal of electorally disastrous proportions". This week's capitulation now leaves the party in a fight for survival at the polls.