Collins puts brave face on a difficult week

8:46 pm on 8 October 2020

Analysis - The National Party is trying to steady its ship after a shocker week on the campaign, with its leader Judith Collins dogged by caucus dissent, internal leaking, a debate loss and a walkabout whoopsie.

Judith Collins - National party Dunedin campaigning

Judith Collins campaigning in Dunedin today. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Collins sought to put the party back on track today - only to again be upstaged.

For Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, adulation has become a regular feature of her campaign. She was mobbed by fans as she walked through Gisborne - the home of her partner Clarke Gayford, who was in tow for the first time this election.

Today, it was selfie after selfie, praise upon praise. Among the crowd were members of the public, but party faithful too. Volunteers wearing rosettes; even Ardern's nephew.

"As identified" she told reporters - a sly dig at her opponent's expense. National was caught red-handed yesterday planting party members along Judith Collins' Auckland walkabout.

Jacinda Ardern takes selfie - Labour party Dunedin walkabout - 7 October 2020

Jacinda Ardern on the Labour campaign trail in Gisborne. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

It is not unusual for parties to put out a call to supporters when their leader is in town - but National's brazen and clumsy attempt cries desperation.

Collins told reporters she had a walk about in Dunedin today, although media were not invited.

"So you weren't there? Oh," she said later. "We were just going from one place to the other, we found it was very good, we got a lot of selfies."

"I saw an incredibly good reception here in Dunedin and I don't know if we could have packed any more people in the room."

It was a small room however, with Collins speaking to the local Chamber of Commerce. A later public meeting at a school hall had many empty seats.

Judith Collins - National party Dunedin campaigning

National leader Judith Collins campaigning in Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"There's a whole lot of people just wishing us well, so I am out there asking for two ticks National. No messing around, just two ticks National. Get on with it."

She cancelled another visit to a cafe - but apparently forgot to let the cafe know and left a lonely plate of cheese rolls uneaten.

Nine days out from an election, the last thing Collins wants to be talking about is an ill-disciplined caucus - but that is exactly what it has been.

MPs have been leaking and talking out of turn. Some have told RNZ internal polling has not been shared for quite for some time.

"Actually, do you know, I'm not here to talk about any internal issues that you say you've got, I certainly haven't heard those," Collins says.

At this stage in the campaign, she would likely prefer no one was hearing them.

Read more about the 2020 election:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs