NBR’s best & worst politicians

NBR has a list of the best and worst for 2015:

The Best candidates:

Bill English: National’s safe pair of hands finally got a (tiny) surplus in his crosshairs and is at risk of losing his unsung hero status with Stuff and Granny Herald naming him politician of the year. NBR’s Rob Hosking paid tribute to the finance minister’s droll wit, including the recent quip “Oh, it’s not disappointing: it’s just another Treasury forecast.”

Judith Collins: It was a textbook rehabilitation campaign as Kindler, Gentler Crusher kept her loose cannon instincts at bay for a year of measured, contrite and sensible media appearances and commentaries.

Tim Groser: A free trade deal with South Korea and the conclusion of the TPP – with NZ, defying expectations in some quarters, refusing to give much ground on issues like copyright and big pharma (on the flipside, there was little in the agreement for Fonterra).

John Key: Yet another year when National has cruised along at the top of the polls and the opposition has failed to land any major blows amid a stream of mini-scandals – a feat that’s more remarkable with each passing year and unprecedented deep into a third term. As a bonus, Malcolm Turnbull and the Aussie media fell in love with him. Key is already headed for the history books as one of our most successful politicians ever, but how will his policy impact be remembered? So far his government has followed the usual NZ pattern of a National government carefully managing and tweaking the reforms of the proceeding Labour government. His pet legacy project faces problems getting over the line in 2016 as pro-current flag voters ally with those disappointed with the winning alternative design.  

Winston Peters: The wily old campaigner outfoxed Andrew Little to get a clean shot at Northland, then ran rings around National to win the byelection. And an increasingly cosy relationship with Shane Jones gave NZ First a potential succession plan.

David Seymour: ACT’s youthful leader has made a number of shortlists for politician of the year, after a hardworking, high profile 12 months. He’s impressed the chattering classes, but the Great New Zealand public still has the phone off the hook; ACT remains within the margin of error in polls — but the groundwork is being laid for a comeback.

Honourable mention: Andrew Little stabilised Labour, which finally managed to go 12 months without a leadership coup, but he failed to move the party forward. Kelvin Davis got great cut-through for Labour at times, but was undermined when some of the Christmas Island deportees turned out to be less than likeable citizens. Paula Bennett and Amy Adams both deserved their promotions, but Bennett is not yet battle-tested, and within Adams’ Communications portfolio the UFB and RBI remain disorganised and often dysfunctional at the day-to-day level.

Can’t argue much with that list, though the Labour names at the bottom are only really there out of fairness. Andrew Little achieved…well…little. Kelvin Davis was ham-fisted and silly in his approach, and though the Media Party was into his claims and grandstanding they didn’t really translate into any improvement either for his leader or for his party.

Worst performing candidates:

David Carter: The Speaker has proved a poor successor to the even-handed Lockwood Smith, with MPs often getting away with lame non-replies to questions, or boorish behaviour.

Gerry Brownlee: Gerry has looked Grumpy Cat for most of year, and no wonder with John Key and his lieutenant Steven Joyce manoeuvring to marginalise his influence and downgrade his portfolios. Unlike Judith Collins, he didn’t have the motivation or wherewithal for a fightback.

Sam Lotu-Iiga: The Maungakiekie MP seemed in over his head during the Serco scandal, helping pave the way for Judith Collins to regain Corrections and Police.

Murray McCully: NBR understands health issues prevented the veteran backroom deal-maker from applying his usual spin as the Saudi sheep scandal hit.

Phil Twyford: The Labour MP’s Chinese-sounding surnames jape helped him get promoted in a reshuffle. But it alienated urban liberals without winning support from those with a taste for immigrant bashing – who stayed loyal to the master of dog whistle politics, Winston Peters.

Dishonorable mention: Being outside Parliament, he doesn’t apply for the official shortlist, but Colin Craig‘s colourful implosion was like an article from The Civilian come to life. Then there’s the sizable missing in action brigade, including Maggie Barry (what is it with National and its succession of MIA MPs for the safe North Shore electorate?), Clayton Cosgrove and Nanaia Mahuta.

David Carter is a pretty bad speaker, approaching levels last seen with Gerry Wall and Margaret Wilson. Sam Lotu-Iiga can feel hard done by. He became the possum in the headlights under a sustained Media Party/Labour Party/Corrections union attack. Those attacks will be blunted by Judith Collins this year and Kelvin Davis is likely to be on the receiving end of much of that.

McCully is deservedly on the worst performing list. His sheep deal has plenty more to run. His Machiavellian ways are declining…he will either retire hurt before the election or retire at the next election.

My pick for best is Bill English, with Winston Peters a close second. My pick for worst is Phil Twyford for his blatant race-baiting.



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