'Ego' behind Judith Collins' 'kamikaze act' - Winston Peters

Winston Peters thinks "far too many people are coming into politics for their own good and their own ego".

The veteran NZ First leader was responding to the "bizarre shambles" his former party National has been through in the last 36 hours. It began with a bombshell allegation by struggling Judith Collins against one of her own caucus members - former leader Simon Bridges - late on Wednesday night, and on Thursday saw her unceremoniously dumped as leader

"In terms of strategic mistakes and own goals, it was really a bad, bad day," Peters told The AM Show on Friday.

Collins first ran for the leadership in 2016, but had to wait until 2020 for her chance after National's polling tanked in the wake of the Government's successful handling of the first wave of COVID-19.

"You can't blame her for the 2020 election result - those things happen… people go for safety, so she can't be blamed for that," said Peters. 

But under Collins, National has failed to capitalise on growing frustrations with the COVID-19 response through 2021. Its polling is as bad as it was a year-and-a-half ago, and Collins has been left stranded on single-digits in preferred Prime Minister polling, behind her rival on the right ACT's David Seymour.

"She wasted all of this year as Leader of the Opposition, then when you talk about the strategic capacity to pick what to run on and to use the right teamwork and use the right men and women in her caucus, I think her results were abysmal," Peters said.

"So it was a kamikaze act, but she took herself out first. [Bridges] is still standing, so if you were talking about a wise strategy, I think she failed."

Collins has repeatedly claimed she wouldn't quit, even if faced with a leadership challenge she'd obviously lose - most recently on Wednesday morning

Her decision to demote Bridges blindsided her caucus, and her claim that she had the backing of the party's board to do it was later challenged by party president Peter Goodfellow

"You can't make mistakes like that," said Peters. "In New Zealand and dare I say it, in the West, there is a serious emerging environment where far too many people are coming into politics for their own good and their own ego, rather than the national ego and the national interest and democracy and freedom. 

"What worried me about yesterday was the National Party needs to get its act together - the country needs an Opposition. There are all sorts of things they could be going on - it's like a rabbit warren of mistakes."

The AM Show host Ryan Bridge put it to Peters that in choosing to side with Labour in 2017, he enabled Labour - and the perceived mistakes of the 2021 response. He said it was voters' fault for giving Labour an outright majority and not reelecting NZ First. 

"In 2020 the handbrake that everybody complained about - which is starting to look pretty good now - was removed from Parliament… [Labour] took all the credit for that then decided they didn't need the handbrake. Well any car that's any good needs a handbrake."

He said an outright Labour majority "will never, ever happen again" after 2021. 

As for what he's doing now. Peters said he's working for himself.

"I find myself so much more reasonable to deal with."