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Judith Collins could decide leadership

Editorial

It is certainly untidy, perhaps even “nutty” as East Coast MP Anne Tolley told The Herald this week, but there is no denying the National Party already appears to be on a hiding to nothing as its caucus prepares this morning for an emergency meeting to decide its leadership for a general election less than four months away.

Appearances can be deceiving, though, as public sentiment has a habit of swinging sharply. The golden glow of a successful pandemic response could quickly dim as the reality of job losses and economic hardship bites — especially if the Government is seen as failing to deliver in some areas.

That was definitely the case last year, when a vaunted “Year of Delivery” turned sour. However, in these unprecedented times and after allocating an extra $20 billion for whatever might be required, there is a lot more money available this year to paper over problems.

Last night’s poll from Colmar Brunton, which had found greater support for National than rival Reid Research in weirdly divergent polling last year, twisted the knife stuck in the back of Simon Bridges by the camp of rival Todd Muller, who this week declared his intention to challenge for the party’s leadership.

It was a shocker, putting National on 29 percent support — its worst result in 15 years — against a stunning 59 percent for Labour. In the preferred prime minister stakes, Jacinda Ardern was on 63 percent support against just 5 percent for Bridges.

One News, which commissions the poll, twisted the knife a little further by explaining a “disapproval” rating of 40 percent for Bridges that it said was dragging down the party’s support and putting the jobs of many of his MPs on the line.

The poll, conducted from Saturday through to Wednesday of this week, asked voters if they approved or disapproved of the way Ardern and Bridges were doing their jobs. It last asked this question in October 2019. Ardern’s approval rating has risen from 33 percent then to 76 percent now (subtracting 10 percent disapproval from 86 percent approval), while Bridges garnered 22 percent approval as the National Party’s leader against 63 percent disapproval for a rounded -40 percent “approval rating” (back from -22 percent in October).

So, what will it be? Holding steady or trying out the untested Muller? Whoever it is, expect Judith Collins to be a winner — with commentators saying the vote is too close to call, it appears she and her support base will decide the outcome.