Talk is starting to firm up around the departure of Murray McCully, and word has it it will be around Christmas time.
People are already positioning themselves for selection if that does occur, though I think a by-election is unlikely given Key’s disdain for them after the debacle in Northland by Steve Joyce and Vic Crone’s campaign manager Jo de Joux. It is likely to be a more managed departure, but if McCully does go and no by-election is called then expect a general election inside 6 months of McCully’s leaving.
Meanwhile Matthew Hooton is flying some kites on his replacement, though they match the rumours I’ve heard too.
It was all going to be so easy.
To refresh John Key’s government before the election, a neat side-shuffle was envisaged.
Sir Lockwood Smith would return to New Zealand to take some academic governance role at his beloved Massey or Lincoln universities, Speaker David Carter would get his gong and head to London as high commissioner, and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee would be elevated to the Speaker’s chair. Mr Key would then be able to promote a next-generation Cantabrian, perhaps Justice Minister Amy Adams, into his inner circle.
It was never clear if the plan was consciously designed in Mr Key’s own mind (or even if he ever agreed with it) or merely evolved out of the chatter of parliament and the punditariat. Nevertheless, it involved a certain elegance.
The problem was that, with the exception of perhaps Sir Lockwood, whose life-long interest has been agricultural science, none of the senior figures required to make it work was interested. Whether anyone ever spoke to him about it, it turned out Mr Carter didn’t want to move to London. And Mr Brownlee made clear that the tradition a new Speaker be reluctantly dragged to the chair would need to be more than ritualistic: he would need to be personally carried from the cabinet room across to the Speaker’s apartments.
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