I’ve been trying to make sense of what is happening inside the National Party caucus. There is clearly no chance of reconciliation between Camp Key and Camp Collins. And it’s possible that the attempt by Nat MP Maurice Williamson to join ACT is not just petulance or a sign of relevance deficit syndrome. It could actually be part of a failed strategy by Collins supporters to force John Key further to the right.
Let me explain. I’ve heard a whisper from a Tory source who is on occasion trustworthy (and on other occasions just winds me up) that Williamson was testing the waters for 2 or 3 other National Party MP’s to also waka hop over to ACT. Collins wouldn’t be one of those to go; she would stay and undermine Key from within caucus.
The plan was supposed to work like this: with National’s governing majority eroded by losing Northland, they’re susceptible to being outflanked on the right. If ACT suddenly had 3 or more MP’s, they could effectively veto any proposed National legislation that they deemed as too soft and there would be little Key could do about it. He would be instantly reduced to a lame duck leader, unable to promote the poll and focus group driven agenda he has relied on to maintain his middle of the road façade and consequent popularity.
Key would be left with a stark choice; give in and go to the right or give in and quit.
Further, I’m told the reason the ACT leadership so brutally and publicly rejected Williamson was not because they have a moral objection to treachery, or think Key’s anything but an approval craving softy, but because they recognised that David ‘Rimmer’ Seymour is so weak, he couldn’t have controlled the new MP’s. ACT risked being further trivialised and as they’re already super sensitive about only existing as National’s charity case, the board freaked out and dobbed Williamson in to Joyce and Key. And those two suggested ACT name and shame Williamson in a bid to forestall the defection of others.
The cadre around Collins has not grown much numerically, but it has strengthened in its determination to take National further to the right. They see the Key years as a wasted opportunity and want to use the remaining part of this term to introduce more Randian legislation, even at the cost of going into opposition at the next election.
There appears to be strengthening support for a Collins coup from outside the party, with Don Brash apparently happy to be the go-between with ACT, and the usual social media suspects stirring the pot. As well as Williamson, the other names I hear within caucus supporting Collins are dry righties such as Amy Adams, Simon Bridges, Sam Lotu-Iiga, Jami-Lee Ross, Scott Simpson and Paul Goldsmith. Plodding ex Plod Chester Borrows appears to have become a convert in recent weeks too, despite a backlash from some within the National caucus.
Borrows has gone feral. He’s leading the charge in opposing improvements in health and safety legislation, particularly what he seems to see as creeping nanny stateism on the farm, where it’s being proposed that the sons of the soil should lose the right to freely injure and kill themselves and their staff on quad bikes. Taranaki based Borrows recently claimed that he knew of a farmer who had been prosecuted for not hanging helmets on parked quad bikes, calling WorkSafe staff “dickheads”. Strangely, when CTU leader Helen Kelly OIA’d the case, no such prosecution existed. I think we know who the real dickhead is, Chester.
But back to Collins. Again, according to my Tory source, with the Williamson waka jumping tactic exposed and Key still riding high in the polls, the plotting is on the backburner for now. However, Camp Collins is still looking for signs of weakness and if Key continues to cock up, as he has done with his hair fetish and cowgate, the knives may be out sooner rather than later.
Commentators such as Matthew Hooton and Cameron Slater will continue to sow seeds of dissent, whining irrationally that Joyce and Key have taken National to the left. Collins will bide her time, but the intent to deal to Key this term remains. As our learned friends in the legal profession know, crime requires means, motive and opportunity. Collins already has the first two, she now just needs the right opportunity. On present form, it won’t be long before Key gives her an excuse to slip the stiletto into his back.
So that’s the current state of play, as I understand it. I’m not saying its 100% correct, but the vibe, your honour, the vibe! And ain’t life grand when we can speculate on a brutal and bloody change of leadership that doesn’t involve the NZ Labour Party?