Steven Joyce’s strategic stupidity with MMP means National has no coalition options and needs to cling to power now at all costs. Backbenchers know this, and know that they have him by the balls because he can’t rely on the maoris without getting it in the arse from the voters.
There are two ways National MPs can cause problems. All of them have the option of crossing the floor, and a few in marginal seats have the option of threatening to resign and bring down the government. The first is a pretty drastic step and would take a seriously pissed off backbencher. The second is a much bigger problem because if there is a by election and National loses the balance of power shifts.
The MPs with marginal seats are:
Paula Bennett – 9
Nicky Wagner - 47
Kate Wilkinson – 642
Nikki Kaye – 717
Sam Lotu-Iiga – 3021
Chris Tremain – 3701
Jonathan Young - 4270
Tim Macindoe – 4,418
Anne Tolley – 4774
The ministers, Bennett, Wilkinson, Tremain and Tolley look pretty safe in their ministerial portfolios. If Key gives them the arse they can tell him to stick it and force a by-election. It looks like Comrade Kate might have got a get out of jail free card.
Of the backbenchers if I were Steven Joyce or John Key I would expect my buttocks to clench every time I got a call from any of Wagner, Kaye, Lotu-Iiga, Young and MacIndoe. And I would be prepared with a bribe to keep them from forcing a by-election, because without them there is every chance Labour would win the seat. The power of incumbency is massive, and these MPs will know it.
John Key and Steven Joyce have created themselves a major problem by ignoring or dismissing the ambitions of many on the back bench. They have also been very naive in their choice of whip. Whips enforce discipline, but by far the best way of enforcing discipline is by building a team around you, encouraging rather than demanding, requesting rather than telling.
The choice of Michael Woodhouse was an interesting one. He replaced two whips who had smooth tenures, Nathan Guy and Chris Tremain. Both men are rugby players, and good team men. They know that leading a team requires tact mixed with inspiration and that you need to do rather than tell to get a team to work well together. They learned their politics on the rugby field, and more importantly in the club rooms afterwards, where a few beers and a good conversation avoids the need for discipline.
Nath and CJ had pleasant tenures as whip, where discipline was clear, but they didn’t get upset about petty things. Make a big mistake or let them down and they would nail you, but they were men enough to see that minor mistakes were not worth blowing up over.
Woodhouse’s background is as a referee, not team captain. He has enforced discipline by the whistle, emphasising his position rather than building a rapport with his team. Like a ref he is aloof and demands respect rather than earns it, and when confronted won’t change his mind because the ref is never wrong.
This approach gets to many who see an inflexible disciplinarian who follows the letter of the law and interrupts the flow of the game. The problem with this approach is if you get a bunch of Type A personalities bossing them around puts their backs up, rather than pulls them into line. This makes them much more likely to say “Fuck off” or “Or What?”. This becomes a huge problem for the ref, because he can’t sin bin them, he can’t red card them and if they say “Or what” and he doesn’t have an answer they know they can get away with murder.
Well done to Simon Bridges, who in the past two weeks has had a blinder. He has celebrated the birth of his heir and now he has been promoted to the ministry of the John Key led government. Good to see he is Associate Climate Change minister, his suggestion to Tim Groser should be to wind up that ministry altogether:
National’s MP for Tauranga Simon Bridges is to be appointed a minister outside Cabinet after the departure of shamed former minister Nick Smith forced a minor reshuffle.
Napier MP Chris Tremain, who is currently outside Cabinet, will move into Cabinet at number 20, Prime Minister John Key said.
Smith resigned his ministerial warrants two weeks ago after admitting he wrote letters for friend and ACC whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar while he was the minister of ACC.
He also admitted failing to declare a conflict of interest when he signed off a letter to Pullar on behalf of the Corporation.
Smith, who is also the MP for Nelson, held the local government, environment and climate change portfolios.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter will also take on the local government portfolio.
Local government reforms were an important part of the Government’s agenda, Key said.
“Mr Carter is an experienced Minister and I’m confident he will drive these reforms along.”
Internal Affairs Minister Amy Adams will become Environment Minister and hand over the Internal Affairs portfolio to Tremain.
Trade Minister Tim Groser will also become the new Minister for Climate Change Issues.
Bridges will take over consumer affairs and associate transport from Tremain.
He will also be Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues.
In an otherwise good article explaining why Nick Smith won more Politician of the Week awards than anyone else based on his principles and willingness to have a dust up with anyone over ideology, Matthew Hooton has a shocker when describing potential replacements.
The tragedy of his departure is that, like too many of the appointments after the 2011 election, he is likely to be replaced with a below-average-intelligence, grey, provincial yes-man, unwilling to challenge the status quo and valued simply as a safe pair of hands.
Hooton seems to think that the provinces are inhabited with troglodytes who haven’t succeeded in the real world based on intellectual rigor and their own hard work.
In Tauranga Simon Bridges is Oxford Educated, which not many westies are, and he is far to refined to have leopard skin on his car. In Rotorua Todd McClay build a substantial lobbying business in Brussels, which is arguably not the real world but it was bloody successful, created links with many New Zealand businesses and did a lot of diplomatic work for Pacific nations. And succeeding in lobbying at one of the biggest parliaments in the world may not be my idea of success but it is better than being a successful unionist in a backwater like the New Zealand union movement.
Louise Upston’s mastery of policy details and background in leadership training means she is a safe pair of hands and has the potential to lead, not to just to administer.
From Hawkes Bay Chris Tremain turned a moderately successful family business in to a highly successful one, at the same time as making huge contributions to sports in HB. He is not in parliament “safe pair of hands”, going on record to upset the small minded in Napier, challenging the status quo on amalgamation. Craig Foss may have a gay ute but he was as successful in banking on an international scale as John Key before entering parliament.
Chester Borrows is a bit too wet on law and order, when he could man up and back the prevailing wisdom which is working world wide. His willingness to take a stand that is unpopular in National show he is not “unwilling to challenge the status quo”.
In the Wairarapa highly intelligent former diplomat John Hayes has well over 40 years of standing up for what he believes in, and not being afraid of a turn up for a good cause. At Lincoln he tried to remove the students association from the New Zealand students association, allegedly because they were a pack of communists, radicals, pooftas and other misfits. John can rest easy at night knowing he fights the good fight and is not one of Hooton’s “below average intelligence”.
Further South Amy Adams has shown herself to be willing to take on difficult issues, and no one has ever accused her of being a “yes-man”. Jo Goodhew is hugely popular in her electorate, and it is a travesty for Hooton to describe her as grey.
Michael Woodhouse may not be favored by the voters in Dunedin but he came to parliament with a track record of success in a difficult industry, where challenging the the status quo is an important part of success. Anyone that knows Michael knows he has a fine intellect, and is definitely not “below-average-intelligence”.
Nick Smith left two important portfolios. Environment and Local Government. Also Climate Change.
Local Government is not that difficult as just about everyone hates councils, and Nick was going to rinse them in a highly popular move that stopped them wasting money on dumb stuff and reigned in their borrowing. The problem is not many in cabinet are interested in Local Government as it is the minor leagues.
Nathan Guy has a background in Local Government, but there is concerns he is an administrator not a leader, and a combination of patch protecting local body representatives and Sir Humphrey’s might slow down reform under Nathan’s watch.
Gerry Brownlee currently has the portfolio on a temporary basis but is known for dodging work as much as salads, so can be expected to pass it on to someone else asap, Unless someone can make Local Government look like a nice meat pie then he will pounce on it with vigour.
From outside of cabinet Chris Tremain comes with a good reputation for getting things done and taking people with him at the same time. Has a good strategic brain and is willing to front foot issues, as well as being in the thick of amalgamation in Hawkes Bay, where small minded halfwits on councils don’t want to lose their income stream. Could sell the policy well.
This is a much more nuanced portfolio that requires someone with detailed knowledge built up over many years, as well as the relationships with lots of angry greenies who have given up hugging trees to bash politicians. The nuance factor also causes problems, as a number of ministers, especially those from the South Island, wouldn’t know a nuance until it snuck up behind them and whacked them with a baseball bat.
Disrupting the current cabinet would not be ideal, so those outside cabinet might be a better bet.
Chris Finlayson is currently the placeholder minister, and will likely be adept in most areas except stakeholder management. Known for his understandable dislike of morons, in an area heavily populated by stakeholder morons Chris might be better taking on another portfolio.
Chris Tremain doesn’t have a background in the Environment but is known to be concerned about water quality and is exceptionally good with stakeholders so is worth a look.
Chester Borrows doesn’t really fit this portfolio, nor does Maurice Williamson. Williamson has an abiding belief that greenies are judder bars in the road toward progress.
Those not currently ministers who have green credentials include Nikki Kaye, Louise Upston and Nicky Wagner. Nikki Kaye is probably too much of a light weight to take on a portfolio where attention to detail and mastery of information is important or you will get stitched up by your department. There is of course the slight stench of Boag around Nikki Kaye.
Louise would have no trouble dealing with the detail and work load, and has been adept in negotiating difficult environmental issues in her electorate. May not have the depth of stakeholder relationships required, but would build them quickly.
Nicky Wagner has the relationships with the tree huggers, NGOs and other groups and the years of detailed learning required to be able to talk to them. Not in favour with the McCully clique which is ten points in her favour in my eyes, but this may count against perhaps the best placed MP to deal with the portfolio.
I have well known views on manbearpig and thinks it is a portfolio that should be abolished, or if not abolished given to a man with a gay ute.
A Christmas visit to volunteers helping quake-stricken Christchurch suburbs may see new Minister of Civil Defence, Napier MP Chris Tremain, link government and the Student Volunteer Army.
Mr Tremain, who took up the ministerial role this month, spent yesterday shovelling liquefaction silt with volunteers in the hard-hit eastern suburb of New Brighton.
He also spent part of the day meeting with University of Canterbury student and the army’s co-ordinator, Sam Johnson, discussing ways the government could work with the volunteers.
“I spent about an hour with him talking through some of the issues he had co-ordinating volunteers between Civil Defence and his organisation, and to see if there were ways in the future we could streamline that,” he said.
“I think there needs to be a way that we can close that chasm between professional organisations and the groups of people that team up on the spot, and see if we can help these two types of volunteers to work together.”
In a number of seats Labour have lost their local list MP for good. Take Rotorua, for instance, Todd McClay saw off Steve Chadwick for the second and last time. Labour’s poor showing in the party vote means Steve Chadwick is now handing in her gear and looking for a job. She won’t have an office and neither will labour in Rotorua for three years. In the local press they won;t have to go and seek comment on issues from the local Labour person because they simply don’t exist. For the next three years the only MP commenting on local issues in Rotorua will be Todd McClay.
Napier is the same. Stuart Nash ran a robust campaign and really pushed Chris Tremain. However Tremain prevailed and Labour’s poor party vote now sees Stuart Nash seeking a job as Chief of Staff in Wellington to David Shearer. He won’t be back. Labour loses a spokesperson in the Bay and an office and Chris Tremain will now enjoy unfettered press coverage for three years straight. His majority will bounce back like Craig Foss who enjoyed a similar holiday from a Labour list stalker. Julia Haydon-Carr faced an insurmountable challenge of overcoming the man with the gay ute, Craig Foss, who did not have Julia stalking him for three years like Nash stalked Tremain.
Paula Bennett has now seen off Carmel Sepuloni in Waitakere. Labour loses an office and a list MP who can dog her every move in Waitakere. Labour again through its poor party vote loses exposure, resources and personnel and cedes the argument to National in a key electorate.
In Christchurch Central, Nicky Wagner will likewise enjoy having no Labour list MP dogging her as Brendan Burns at number 29 on Labour’s list was left stranded high and dry. Nicky will now be able to cement her position as National’s voice in Christchurch, an island of blue in a sea of red. Labour loses their office and their voice which will have to be picked up and shared by others. Perhaps Clayton Cosgrove, after his defeat in Waimakiriri might establish a presence, but it will never be a full time one.
Sam Lotu Iiga in Maungakiekie also will enjoy not having Carol Beaumont stalk his every move. He will be hoping that no labour list MPs quit and that David Shearer will tell Beaumont that the face doesn’t fit but until then he too can enjoy an electorate without a Labour office ruining the view.
Losing those resources in key areas makes it very difficult to turn things around in 2014. Labour has less presence, less resources and they must spread thinly to ensure coverage. They don’t realise the significance yet of their decision to keep Goff at the helm so that he could do to Labour what Bill English did to national in 2002. Even the leaders office will suffer cutbacks due to the reduced vote. Some in the Goffice will be very nervous, not just because they were wedded to the disaster that was Phil Goff but because there simply isn’t enough cash now to retain them all.
This is the mess that Labour has inherited, but worse this is the mess they have charged a political novice with fixing. Does David Shearer have an Orewa speech in him? I don’t think so.
Sam Lotu-Iiga - In Auckland only one National MP increased his majority. Sam increased his majority by 845 in the formerly safe Labour seat of Maungakiekie. Sam was blessed by having Carol Beaumont as his opponent.
Mike Sabin - John Carter had a huge reputation as a vote winner. So it is a huge surprise that Mike Sabin increased the majority in Northland by 601 votes. Well done Mike.
Stuart Nash - Hard to describe as a winner as he is no longer an MP but he reduced Chris Tremain’s majority by 5,636, the biggest fall in majority of any National MP.
Labour Party for ranking Stuaert Nash behind unpleasant, unelectable vote losing MPs like Carol Beaumont, Carmel Sepuloni, Sue Moroney & Darien Fenton. Labour needs to learn that success as a unionist where ideological purity, general nastiness and willingness to do years of drudgery doesn’t translate to winning votes.