NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins says John Key and Bill English also made up policy without telling the rest of the party

Judith Collins has claimed it's common for leaders to change party policy during an election campaign without involving the candidate tasked with speaking on that policy on behalf of the party. 

National's chaotic third year in Opposition continued this week, when Collins said on Monday the party would launch an inquiry into Auckland Council and organisations like Watercare and Auckland Transport.

This was news to the party's local government spokesperson Denise Lee, who made her feelings clear in an email to her National Party colleagues, which was leaked to Newshub. In the email, Lee said Collins showed "shockingly poor form" in leaving her out, criticising the policy as "highly problematic" and saying it would create "another working group". 

After discussing the matter with Collins, Lee on Tuesday said she "unreservedly" supports her as leader, and would remain "focused on winning the seat of Maungakiekie".

Appearing on The AM Show on Wednesday morning, Collins said the matter "has gone away", writing off Lee's concerns as a "bit of funny behaviour". 

"It's just important that you know, in the campaigns, certainly with the campaigns I've been involved in, the leader and the leadership team, the campaign team as well, have to make decisions - those decisions are made and [they don't] always include people who particularly have been involved in the areas, particularly if it's not the decision that person might have wanted. We just get on and do the job."

Duncan Garner grills Judith Collins.
Duncan Garner grills Judith Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

She said the policy was in place and a press release prepared as long ago as September 23, but they held off making it public or telling Lee, who was previously an Auckland Councillor. 

"Miss Ardern calls them captain's calls - remember her on the capital gains tax? ... That's what leaders do. It's not leadership by committee - you've actually got to have the leader making decisions, and I have." 

Collins continued, saying Lee was "not part of the senior leadership team" and a "first-time MP... not used to the way that campaigns are run". 

"I've pointed out that all the leaders I've dealt with over the years - whether it's Bill English or John Key or Don Brash - they make decisions. That's called leadership."

This is Lee's fourth central Government election campaign, having as a United Future candidate in 2008 and for National as a list candidate in 2011 (unsuccessfully) and 2017 (where she was elected as the MP for Maungakiekie).

"She's acknowledged that she was wrong, she's acknowledged her support for the leadership," said Collins. "People sometimes make mistakes in the heat of the campaign. I'm not going to dwell on it because I don't think it's important." 

Last week Collins made a number of policy announcements during the Newshub Leaders Debate that hadn't previously been revealed, including getting rid of the gun register, inquiries into Pharmac an Gloriavale and free sanitary products in schools.