If you had to declare a winner of the campaign's penultimate week, the prize would surely go to National's Denise Lee. After all, no one else managed to land such a clean blow on their opponent this week.
It's just a pity for Lee that her opponent is her own leader Judith Collins.
Lee's gripe is that Collins appeared on Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking Breakfast Show on Monday and announced a review of Auckland Council if elected. Lee - the party's Auckland Council spokesperson - subsequently emailed her unhappiness to the entire National Party caucus, calling it a "highly problematic idea", "another working group", a "nightmare" and said bypassing her was "incredibly poor form and displays a shockingly bad example of poor culture".
It was extremely ill-judged of Lee to send an email critical of her leader to the entire caucus less than two weeks out from the election. Campaign chair Gerry Brownlee admits he advised Lee to put her complaint in writing, but only to send it to the campaign team or chief of staff. It's unclear whether Lee's decision to email it to a wider group was a rookie error or deliberate. Either way, the email was then used in an effective and deliberate leak to media to white-ant Collins.
It's no surprise that portions of caucus are grumpy at Collins. It's become increasingly apparent that she and a tight campaign team are probably going solo, making unilateral decisions and setting policy themselves. That is not unusual in campaigns where leaders realise how bad things might get and so forgo consensus in order to save as many seats as possible.
National's caucus, staff and party HQ will need to reflect post-election how much Collins is to blame for the now likely loss, and how much the rest of them are. Collins clearly has to take some responsibility for a poor outcome. Politicising her Christianity and allowing photos of herself praying was weird. Some of her debate quips - like "don't disrespect Samoa" - were absolute clangers.
But she has performed remarkably well for a leader thrown in at the last minute and asked to rescue a party cast into shambles by Todd Muller and the MPs backing him. Since then she's had to deal with a huge list of problems caused by her own team: Andrew Falloon's dirty texts, Merv the talkback caller, accusations of an almost-rigged Auckland central selection process, Gerry Brownlee's "interesting series of facts", the white anting, and rookie errors like her campaign staff forgetting to diarise the widely listened-to Newstalk ZB interview so that she turned up an embarrassing 20 minutes late. One leader can only do so much when a party self destructs around her.
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Luckily for Lee, the damage she's inflicted appears limited as far as the polls go. For now. National only dropped 1 per cent in the Colmar Brunton poll this week, which is surprising given how bad the campaign week has been for the party. It wasn't just the Lee leak. it was also the prayer photos, the staged walkabout on Ponsonby Rd, the furore over an optometrist denying entry to Collins and that shouty Collins performance in The Press leaders debate.
It's hard to know whether that polling will hold in the final week of the campaign as it becomes more obvious National has a very unlikely path to victory, or whether voters will shift off strategically to shore up Labour against the Greens.
National should resist blaming Collins for what's probably about to happen. The fact simply is that the entire party is struggling to convince voters it is ready to lead.
• Heather du Plessis-Allan hosts Drive on Newstalk ZB, weekdays, 4pm-7pm