It ‘Twas the year of the ball-breaker: and therefore Judith Collins is my politician of the year.
No doubt this will make plenty of people angry, because “Crusher” has her enemies not just on the Left, but on the Right.
But the fact that she is now widely recognised as a front-runner for National’s leadership shows just how big a year Collins had.
She simply smashed her way through the year – nearly everyone who came up against Collins came off second-best.
Gower looks at the other contenders:
Greens co-leader Russel Norman’s been cited by most of the commentariat as politician of the year. He had a great year, rising as defacto leader of the Opposition and was a superb economic communicator, even putting himself up as a future Finance Minister.
But Rusty came off second-best when he came up against himself. Yes, that moment of madness when Norman thought getting a laser printer to copy off some New Zealand $20 notes could pay for the Christchurch rebuild and solve New Zealand’s economic woes. It is frankly impossible to name someone who suggests printing money as politician of the year.
It is good to see a journalist actually cite policy issues in appraising an MPs performance, rather than purely how they handle the media etc. We need more focus on policies.
That takes me to Collins – she did not come off second-best, even when hit with the full-on wave of destruction that was the ACC Bronwyn Pullar scandal.
It wiped out Nick Smith as a Minister. It swept so far it even briefly touched Key – nobody seemed immune.
But Collins wiped out the chairman John Judge, and board members Rob Campbell, John McCliskie and Murray Hilder. Chief Executive Ralph Stewart freaked out and jumped.
Collins never looked entirely safe throughout – it was “harum scarum” stuff by her.
Collins was under extraordinary pressure. It seemed she had mishandled it – that there were things that would come back at her. They haven’t – yet. How she managed that, I don’t know.
Labour’s Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little tried to take her on over it. They lost – in the courts no less, when Collins did them for defamation. Collins put a hit on Mallard – that should not be under-estimated as a political hit. Collins beat up Mallard.
By the time the ACC report came out, Collins had it under control. The heads had rolled – this in a country where heads never roll.
In a scandal to hurt so many, for Collins to come out virtually unscathed shows considerable political skill. And maybe some luck.
Not much luck I’d say.
Next year there must be more policy and less politics from Collins – she must sort out ACC to really prove her mettle.
But this year Collins made a move.
She survived and managed the ACC mega-scandal. She put Bain’s Compensation claim in a choker-hold.
She got her way time and time again.
She has cemented herself as a potential future leader of the National Party.
And not once did she come off second-best. It was ball-breaking stuff, it wasn’t always pretty, but it worked – and Collins is my politician of the year.
A ballsy call.