Judith Collins

 

Former Justice Minister Judith Collins has been looking at politicians around the world and reached a clear conclusion.

Electors want politicians who have something to say and who mean what they say.

She says that explains the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and even Donald Trump in the United States.

And she believes it also explains why Labour is not doing well in New Zealand; that they have nothing to say.

She set out a summary of her views in the Sunday Star Times and one Labour politician did have something to say.

 Phil Goff said the column sounded like the start of her campaign to become National leader.

But in a lengthy interview with POLITIK she chose her words carefully and avoided any head on challenge to the National Party leadership who have shunned her since she resigned from Cabinet over her connections with Whaleoil.

Nevertheless her message is clear.

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“It’s better to make a difference than to sit in Parliament and occupy a seat,” she said.

“You are actually elected to do something.

“If you don’t do something then get out of the way and let someone else do it.”

She worries that the general public all round the world is sick and tired of politicians who say just what they think the electorate wants them to say.

She believes this accounts for the rise of what she calls the “non politician politician” — Donald Trump or Jeremy Corbyn.

“People actually want to hear what politicians stand for and that they will say what they think not what they think you want them to say to get you to vote for them.”

She says the impulse to be cautious and to occupy the centre is particularly strong with Ministers.

“Ministers are always wary that they are going to be in the media for something that their department has done.

“Actually ultimately you are never going to get anything done unless you change the status quo and you can’t do that from a position of fear or a position of let’s not rock the boat.”

She is suspicious of focus groups.

“The problem with focus groups is that you are asking them a question; you are defining what they can talk about and what they are interested in and sometimes I think you have just got to stand for something.”

She says she doesn’t use focus groups but relies on knocking on doors and what people tell her in her electorate office.

“In my electorate there are probably quite a lot of people who aren’t necessarily National voters but what they like is if you are straight up with them.”

She seems proud of what National has achieved — the way it has cut taxes and the way it tacked back to the centre with the last Budget.

But she believes the party in the future needs to look at more public private partnerships, particularly in transport, as a way of getting capital into the country.

And she wants to see the Government get tough with the public sector and make individual public servants more accountable.

One of the reasons she thinks public private partnerships work is you can fire the private partner if it is not working.

And she wants to see the work she started on domestic violence continued.

“That’s the sort of stuff that matters to people,” she said.

But ultimately she argues that the economy is the most important issue for most people.

So she wants to see National emphasise issues around  taxes – “how we spend our money”.

There will be many who will scrutinise the comments here and in the Sunday Star Times column for signs of dissidence, for some hint that as Mr Goff claimed, she has begun her campaign for the party leadership.

But what she is saying is more general than that.

It looks more like the beginning of what  may be a long debate defining what the post-Key National Party might look like.

Ms Collins has always been a conviction politician and is always thought of as being on the right of the party.

The Prime Minister defines himself as a centrist and inevitably as a consequence centrism has become the prevailing fashion right through the party.

But whether centrism could survive an electoral defeat and the inevitable retirement of Mr Key is another matter.

Clearly Ms Collins thinks it shouldn’t.

She believes that the party needs to start by addressing its base.

Meanwhile being an MP is simple she says.

“We have to be entertaining, we have to be quick witted and we have to have policies that mean something.”