We have never seen the Prime Minister look so weak. Today it looks as if he has lost his strong and choking grip on his previously loyal party.
For the first time since 2006 the National Party is showing voters an unstable organisation which is no longer unanimously behind the Prime Minister.
At parliament this afternoon the Prime Minister was asked whether it was a sign of instability after emails were leaked showing two crisis meetings organised by National’s North Shore MP and silver fern advocate Maggie Barry.
The Prime Minister maneuvered the question in his favour, telling reporters that “MPs meet all the time” and this was nothing new.
That’s correct. But emails being leaked by a supposedly loyal MP? That’s entirely new, and extremely damaging to the Prime Minister’s long-held public perception of being a leader who is supported by his colleagues. National, in contrast to Labour, has until now suffered no leadership questions. Tonight that changes.
It is uncertain who leaked the emails to the media after the story was released by Newshub’s Patrick Gower this afternoon, and will perhaps never be known. What is known, however, is anti-change MPs such as Gerry Brownlee and Judith Collins were not invited to the second meeting. Nor was backbencher and former suspected member of the ‘Collins camp’ Maurice Williamson.
Newshub assumed from the invite list that around 54% of National MPs support the flag change, and therefore the Prime Minister’s leadership – but only 10 MPs, including one minister and the chief whip, Tim Macindoe, were seen attending the meeting this morning.
As the news broke attention turned to Mrs. Collins, a well-known member of National’s Right, who have been quiet about their growing dissatisfaction with the “wasted opportunity” National’s popularity with the public has with John Key, who they believe has enacted too little right-wing change.
But Mrs. Collins cannot have been responsible given she was not invited to the second meeting.
Right-wing attack dog Matthew Hooton said of John Key in the National Business Review last year:
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”
“humiliation in the flag referendum next year may provide him with a suitable pretext to step down. He should take it”.
Remember a similar scenario playing out across the Tasman? Let’s not forget that within weeks of the leaks from inside Abbott’s cabinet, a coup was mounted, and the Prime Minister was gone. If you want to cause instability and make your leader look weak – leaked emails are just the answer; and let’s not hide from the truth – that was exactly the intention of the National MP, supposedly from the National Right, who leaked the emails today.
The question we are left with now is; will the Prime Minister jump, or will he be pushed? We are indeed in a new age of instability in the government.