Judith Collins reveals the 'worst thing' that happened to National during NZ election campaign

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Getty

Judith Collins has described Auckland's COVID-19 outbreak in August as the "worst thing" to happen to the National Party's election campaign.

Speaking to Magic Talk's Sean Plunket, Collins reflected on the year that was and an election campaign that was marred by controversy.

"The worst thing for us was, apart from disunity, was COVID - and that second lockdown," she said on Wednesday.

"That second lockdown was absolute death in many ways because we had the campaign ready - the campaign launch [then] stopped."

Collins said it then became "Ashley and Jacinda o'clock" - referring to Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's daily 1pm COVID-19 press conferences.

But Collins said it's not National's lowest point. The latest political poll released last week - the first since the election - had National on 25 percent. 

The lowest election result for National was at the 2002 election - garnering just 20.9 percent of the vote under Sir Bill English. 

"We don't have any of the same situations we had in 2002," Collins told Magic Talk. "Even though we're down we're certainly not out and we're absolutely focussed."

She conceded 2020 had been a "weird" year but was still proud to lead National.

"It wasn't great and if anyone needs another reminder that disunity is death in politics, that was one too," Collins said. "We just have to get on with the jobs [and] keep focussed on what we need to."

The disunity Collins is referring to is internal issues such as MPs leaking against her during the campaign. 

After the election, the National Party confirmed an external review would investigate what went wrong during the campaign.

"There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for the National Party, and we would be foolish not to comprehensively review every aspect of our approach to the campaign and our work throughout the last term of Parliament," president Peter Goodfellow said last month. 

He said the review would focus on areas the party has or could have control over.

"The panel has a wide mandate to seek inputs from individuals within and external to the party as they feel appropriate and are also asked to explore any areas they deem important," Goodfellow said. "The panel is made up of an experienced and well-respected blend of people who were not involved with the day to day running of the campaign and who have an in-depth understanding of the party."

Collins became the National leader just over three months out from the election following Todd Muller's resignation.