Sometimes in politics, it starts badly and quickly gets worse.
Politics is magnificent, crucial, indispensable, horrible, and sometimes just hideously painful. The National Party of New Zealand has had an unfair share of terrible days in the last three or so years. Most have played out like one-act plays, tableaux lit up in tragicomic colours. Here are the very terriblest five.
Jami-Lee Ross goes ballistic, October 16, 2018
A once-in-a-hundred-year weather event in which the House of Cards-loving MP Jami-Lee Ross drove through the night from Auckland, arrived at Warehouse Stationery at opening time, printed a bunch of dossiers and handed them to media in a strange, explosive press conference on the tiles at parliament. His intention: destroying Simon Bridges. It was the centrepiece of a jaw-dropping firestorm, in which JLR accused his leader and former friend of corruption, released clandestine recordings and got booted from the National caucus. It encompassed the police, the Serious Fraud Office, Dirty Politics and “bed-hopping”.
Muller stares deeply into the void, May 26, 2020
A once-in-a-hundred-year weather event in which Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye, freshly installed as leader and co-leader after an intricate, ruthless coup, undertook their first caucus run. In a package that should have won every award for major motion pictures, Tova O’Brien captured the absolute hell of it – a French farce of disarray and anguished expressions, most notable for Kaye announcing that Paul Goldsmith is Māori, to the surprise of everyone including Paul Goldsmith.
Adams and Kaye quit politics, July 16, 2020
A once-in-a-decade weather event in which two of the National Party’s brightest lights, Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye, decide they’re done with politics. It comes shortly after the ignominious end of the Muller leadership, which lasted just 53 days, as new leader Judith Collins faces a conveyer belt of scandals. A few days earlier Michelle Boag had resigned after admitting leaking private patient information to National MP Hamish Walker, who announced he’d stand down, too. Michael Woodhouse, who drew on the information, had been demoted, and the party’s Covid response undermined. And just around the corner was the Andrew Falloon episode, in which the MP exited having sent unwanted pornographic images to a 19-year-old. That’s a lot of things across a lot of days, but we’ve chosen this one for this simple reason: just think how much National could use Kaye and Adams in the mix right now.
Ponsonby Road, October 7, 2020
A once-in-a-hundred-year weather event saw Judith Collins on the back foot over embarrassing leaks from her MPs and on the front foot walking down Ponsonby Road in Auckland with the new candidate for the local electorate, who had herself been appointed after another mini-scandal. In a dreadful day that epitomised a dreadful campaign, the walk and talk was already awkward, and then it become clear that the ordinary hard-working folks who had gathered to say hello were props: National loyalists installed to grin and whistle. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
Collins exits through the fire door, November 25, 2021
A once-in-a-hundred-year weather event in which Judith Collins, true to form, decided the best form of defence was full-bore attack. On Monday night, Simon Bridges was on the news responding to polling that put him ahead of Collins. His words said “no intention” to run; his grin said, “Heeeere’s Simon”. On Wednesday night Collins issued a press release saying he’d been demoted over historic remarks. The statement was over-egged, misleading and an insult to caucus. That set the scene for Thursday, with the media camped outside parliament to grab MPs on their way into a meeting that was still going two hours after the promised press conference was meant to begin. “I can’t recall a worse case of potential brand damage under MMP than the way this has played out,” said veteran National pollster David Farrar. The only way is up.