Judith Collins axed from frontbench after losing National party leadership

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

Successor Christopher Luxon said Collins had a ‘real passion’ for new portfolio of science and innovation

New Zealand’s former opposition leader Judith Collins has been demoted from the National party’s frontbench and tumbled 18 places in its ranks, nearly two weeks after being ousted following her attempt to crush a rival.

New leader Christopher Luxon announced the party’s caucus reshuffle on Monday. Collins, who copped the biggest demotion in the party, will take on a single portfolio – research, science and innovation – but will remain in the shadow cabinet.

Related: Christopher Luxon is out of step with most New Zealanders – can he really challenge Ardern? | Morgan Godfery

“Judith has a real passion for the portfolio that she’s been offered there in terms of research, science, innovation and technology. She cares very deeply about it, and she’s going to be absolutely brilliant,” Luxon said.

Collins self-destructed after a sudden decision to strip one of her political rivals, Simon Bridges, of his portfolios over a historic complaint. Collins’s unilateral move blindsided many of the party’s MPs, and she was ousted the following day in a no-confidence motion.

When asked whether a single portfolio would be enough to keep Collins busy, Luxon replied: “yes, absolutely.”

Collins’ former deputy leader Dr Shane Reti took a small fall of three places to number five, but was the least affected member of the former team. He keeps health and picks up the Māori-Crown and Pacific peoples portfolio.

Luxon, who is the latest in a string of National leaders, and has only been in parliament for a year, will be tasked with uniting a party long plagued by poor polling, minor scandals and political infighting. The reshuffle is his first major challenge towards this goal.

“The lineup I’m announcing today is based on performance and it also best matches people to their strengths and their skill sets. I have deliberately selected a shadow cabinet of 20 members to match the government’s cabinet,” Luxon said.

MPs outside the shadow cabinet will not be ranked, he said.

“It makes no sense and it’s largely irrelevant, because performance in the portfolio matters much much more than any ranking … we’re doing things different because I’m not from a politics world. I’m coming from a world where we build things on performance, not on hierarchy.”

Deputy leader Nicola Willis, ranked number two, will retain her housing portfolio and pick up social investment. Bridges – a former party leader who bowed out of last week’s leadership race to make way for Luxon – is ranked number three and takes on both finance and infrastructure.

Related: The era of Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins ends in a blaze of fury

The major winners in the reshuffle are Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop who has jumped up the ranks to number four and retains his portfolio while taking on shadow leader of the house, and Erica Stanford who jumped from 25th to seventh, keeping immigration and taking on education.

“It is also the expectation of my team that they will oppose the spin heavy and PR driven government, but that they will also propose constructive plans to solve some of our most intractable problems,” Luxon said.

Luxon will square-off against prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday in his first question time as leader, in what will be another major first test of his leadership.

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