Judith Collins poses a difficult problem for National, they struggle to get anything like gender balance in their caucus and Judith was seen as having potential as a future Prime Minister. Pansy Wong has already resigned through a very similar situation involving China, a husband and conflicts of interest, and this seems to be a repeating theme. Collins and Parata have been viewed as potential leaders and yet both are now continuing with their portfolios under heavy media attack and low public confidence.
I think it must be difficult for any woman in a National caucus (to an outsider it always appears to operate like an exclusive men's club) and this may explain why only five in the top twenty of National's 2011 list were female. Of those five Kate Wilkinson resigned as Minister of Labour and was removed from the cabinet, Paula Bennett has had her moments, Anne Tolley struggled with the education portfolio and was shifted to the police, Hekia Parata has little public support for her education leadership and has had two court decisions go against her and now Judith is in trouble.
Kate Wilkinson is not known for bullying or personal attacks and yet she was the first to be shifted from a senior role. It seems for those remaining attack is the main way of dealing with criticism and contrary views. This is a real pity as many people would hope that women in a National Caucus would provide a more conciliatory and moderating element to the aggressive approach generally used by their male colleagues.
I have little sympathy for Collins as she has caused much of her current situation. Even if her Oravida dinner and meetings were purely social (which few believe), they occurred during a ministerial trip and should have been declared if there was any possible perception of a conflict of interest. The Greens suggestion of adopting a disclosure regime based on the British rules makes sense as it will actually protect Ministers from potential attacks as well as providing greater public assurance regarding the way taxpayer dollars are spent.
I am also surprised that it has taken this long for Collins to be under attack as there have been many times in the past where I believe she has behaved inappropriately.
- To throw out the Electoral Commissions recommendations to amend MMP because they didn't support National's interests was appalling. Her claim that there was no consensus from other parties was ridiculous when no such consensus was attempted.
- Expressing no confidence and bullying Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews for poor performance was unwise when it was later revealed that he had warned the Government about under resourcing and was making improvements despite this.
- To publicly castigate Justice Binnie for producing a report she did not agree with was the height of bad taste considering the Canadian Judge's international reputation and the goodwill he provided. This was one of the most arrogant responses I have seen from any of our politicians and resulted in some international embarrassment.
- Collins' support of Tolley's personal attack on Metiria Turei was totally uncalled for and she even took it further by suggesting that female MPs can wear expensive clothes when advocating for the poor, but only if they are dressed nicely.
I am looking forward to the election of a Green/Labour government where women will not have to resort to vicious behaviour and personal attacks to succeed and gender balance is encouraged and celebrated.