One year after suffering a huge election loss, New Zealand’s conservative opposition leader Judith Collins was ousted yesterday by her caucus.
Collins was in the role for a tumultuous 16 months. She never polled well as leader of the National Party, even after New Zealand Prime Minister and liberal Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern’s popularity began to fade in recent months as a COVID-19 outbreak took hold in Auckland.
Rumors about a possible move against Collins had been circulating for weeks, but she ended up making the first move on Wednesday night by stripping former leader and potential rival Simon Bridges of his portfolios.
Collins said she made the move because she had discovered that Bridges made inappropriate comments to female colleague Jacqui Dean about five years ago at a function.
Other National Party lawmakers were not impressed with the move by Collins, pointing out that Bridges had apologized at the time.
The new National Party leader is scheduled to be chosen next week. Possible contenders include Bridges, former Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon and former police officer Mark Mitchell. Collins plans to stay on in parliament as a lawmaker representing the Auckland district of Papakura.
Collins said that it had required stamina and resolve to take on the leadership during “the worst of times.”
“I knew when I was confided in by a female colleague regarding her allegation of serious misconduct against a senior colleague that I would likely lose the leadership by taking the matter so seriously,” Collins wrote on Twitter. “If I hadn’t, then I felt that I wouldn’t deserve the role.”
Dean said that Bridges apologized at the time, but the incident “continued to play on my mind.”
Ardern last year won a second term in an election victory of historic proportions. The popularity of the Labour Party has slipped since then, but most of the gains have gone to the libertarian ACT Party, while Collins and the National Party have continued to languish in opinion polls.
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