Is Greg Loveridge going to be Labour’s Key killer?

Matthew Hooton does a post-mortem on Trevor Mallard being list-only

The old warhorse claims he plans to return to Parliament as a list MP but he knows he has no chance of making it back. Right now, Labour looks set to win 28 electorate seats but is unlikely to win enough party votes to bring in more than a couple of list MPs, if any.

And Andrew Little would have to be a list position number one…  how embarrassing if your party leader can’t even get back on the list?

Worse for poor Mr Mallard, the party’s controversial Rule 360 requires its list moderating committee to ensure there is an equal balance of male and female MPs after the 2017 election. With a big majority of the 28 electorate MPs likely to be male, the first eight effective places on its party list after leader Andrew Little will have to be female.

Our microphones in Fraser House have picked up some significant stress.  The sisterhood is being told to pull their heads in, and they’ll be rewarded in 2020.   Does that sound like equality, or equality after all the men are safely voted in?

The real reason Mr Mallard is abandoning Hutt South and bringing his 30 years in Parliament to a close is because he knows he would almost certainly lose the seat to National’s rising star Chris Bishop.

Mr Bishop, a born-and-bred Hutt boy, missed out on the previously safe Labour seat to Mr Mallard by just 709 votes in 2014. He probably would have won it had National taken it seriously earlier, and not left Mr Bishop’s selection to just four months before the election.

Nevertheless, Mr Bishop, who sneaked in as a list MP anyway, decided to act as if he had won. He opened National’s first office in Wainuiomata, involved himself in local issues, attends every local event and established his own Hutt City Youth Awards.  His close relationships with John Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce – including as a former staffer for the last two – have positioned him well to sprinkle corporate-welfare pixie dust throughout the electorate.

People who want to win an electorate seat must work 3 years in the seat to build up the profile and respect.  Incumbents frequently are coasting on their name recognition and aren’t to be seen locally at all.  People who think becoming an electorate MP is a 2-3 month job are almost always disappointed at the outcome. 

Finding a replacement for Mr Mallard who can actually beat Mr Bishop is therefore crucial. Mr Mallard’s man is believed to be 25-year-old local boy Campbell Barry, who became the youngest person to be elected to the Hutt City Council three years ago. Alice Soper from Mr Mallard’s electorate office is also said to be keen. […]

If Labour is interested in reconnecting with the Auckland business community and the crucial aspirational middle class in West Auckland – which Mr Little and his finance spokesman Grant Robertson have so utterly failed to do – then it really has no choice but to opt for Sir Robert Jones’ right-hand man in Auckland, NBR Rich Lister Greg Loveridge, who is expected to put his hand up.

Most obviously, sitting on this year’s NBR Rich List at $80 million, ahead of Mr Key on only $60 million, the one-time test cricketer and Cambridge University graduate exudes everything Labour’s increasingly wacko membership despises, especially as most of his $80 million was made in Auckland property – albeit commercial not residential.Labour activists can surely be counselled to forgive those crimes, just as their National counterparts in Helensville overcame their concerns about the optics of Mr Key’s wealth before selecting him. Moreover, as Mr Loveridge makes clear privately, his interest in politics and commitment to his party precede his career in property, and perhaps even cricket.

A subtler problem is that – again like Mr Key and National’s Don Brash and Judith Collins in 2002 – Mr Loveridge will not really be entering Parliament with the intention of being a loyal foot soldier for his party’s hapless leadership, and the Hutt South party members, the union delegates and the head office representatives who make the selection will know it. People like Mr Key, Dr Brash and Mr Loveridge do not leave their high-flying careers to become mere ministers in someone else’s government but to change the direction of their parties and become prime minister themselves.

For the same reasons as Mr Mallard cannot get into Parliament on the list, Mr Loveridge’s gender and Labour’s shocking polling prevent him from entering politics that way. Hutt South is his only realistic path. And just as National needed Dr Brash and then Mr Key after Bill English’s 20.93% debacle in 2002, Labour is going to  need the likes of Mr Loveridge to pick up the pieces after Mr Little leads it to its worst-ever crisis in 2017.

It would certainly present a circuit breaker in Labour’s current performance that is better observed while listening to the Benny Hill sound track.

But we can safely assume that Labour will continue to do what it wants to do, not what it needs to do.

 

– Matthew Hooton, NBR

 


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