UK Labour comes 4th in by-election

In the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election, Labour dropped 7.1% from their 2015 result to come 4th behind both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

The Guardian reports:

Labour MPs have said they fear the party is pursuing a “0% strategy” because of the lack of clarity on Brexit, after the disappointing byelection result in Sleaford and North Hykeham in which Labour slipped from second place to fourth.

MPs said they believed the party was alienating both sides of the referendum debate by defending freedom of movement but promising to push through with leaving the EU.

Caroline Johnson, a paediatrician, held the Lincolnshire seat for the Conservatives with 17,570 votes, ahead of Victoria Ayling of Ukip, whose share of the vote fell by two percentage points from 2015.

Labour’s vote dropped by seven points and the Liberal Democrats went up by five points to take third place.

The Croydon North MP, Steve Reed, said: “Labour risks becoming the party of the 0% if we manage to upset both remainers and leavers by equivocating our position.

Will Labour survive Corbyn?

Key cited as example in Canada

Kelly McParland writes in the National Post:

I’m willing to bet that most Canadians had never heard of John Key before they readtoday that he’s stepping down as prime minister of New Zealand. If they gave the news the usual cursory glance, they probably assumed he was leaving because a) he got caught in a scandal, b) is so unpopular he has no chance of re-election, or c) he knew he was cooked and wanted to avoid the embarrassment of being forced to quit over a or b.

What makes Key’s departure noteworthy, however, is that none of the above apply. He appears to be quitting because he feels he’s accomplished enough, and genuinely wants to spend more time with his family. A politician leaving office before being forced out by circumstances. Imagine that.

Almost unheard of.

His three mates, Abbott, Cameron and Harper all went out the normal way. Key avoided that.

From all available reports (I admit my first-hand experience with New Zealand politics is limited), Key looks to be an authentic success story. He has been party leader since 2006 and prime minister since 2008. He led his party to three successive victories and appeared set to add a fourth next year. No major scandals stain his name. When he first entered politics his party had just suffered a serious drubbing at the polls; six years later he lifted them to power, and they’ve been there ever since.

He goes out with National polling 27% ahead of Labour.

Canada’s history is loaded with examples of politicians who didn’t know when to go (or, even if they did know, refused to leave anyway). John Diefenbaker had to be dragged from office kicking and screaming, then glued himself to the opposition leader’s bench until a party rebellion arose against him. Pierre Trudeau stuck around so long he was defeated by Joe Clark, then ended his comeback just in time for his successor to be decimated by Brian Mulroney. Mulroney, in turn, successfully exited office in time for his Tories to be reduced from 156 seats to two

Term limits could be a good idea!

It all reflects the iron ego that motivates so many electees. They run for office because they’ve convinced themselves the people need them. Far too many have little experience in any job that didn’t depend on public funding. Once handed some authority, they are loath to ever let it go, because it’s too crucial to their own self-image. In the end, serving the public has little to do with it; it’s all about protecting their sense of self-worth.

John Key appears to be an exception. A lot of elected people in Canada should study the example he’s set and look in the mirror. The world would be a better place, and politics a much more respectable calling, if others followed his example.

Key never measured his self worth by political power. He achieved enough outside politics to avoid that.

Parker wins WBO title

Stuff reports:

Joseph Parker proved as good as his word as he became the first New Zealand-born heavyweight world boxing champion.

An impressive Parker battled hard over the back end of the fight to beat Mexico’s Andy Ruiz in Auckland on Saturday night to win the vacant WBO belt by majority points decision.

The judges scored the 12-round bout 114-114, 115-113, 115-113 – a reflection of how close it was.

Parker is an impressive boxer and great he now has a world title. However I note it was for a vacant title, not against a proven champion.

Parker’s quest now will be to go on and unify the top of the sport’s glamour division. The WBO belt represents the first rung on a ladder of four to the ultimate glory as the undisputed champion.

The IBF, WBA and WBC wait and there will be genuine concern and caution in those areas as Parker continues to do more than just rattle the ranks.

If he can unify the titles, then he will indeed be a world champion. He is on his way.

The Bill and Paula combo

So Bill English will become Prime Minister on Monday and Paula Bennett the Deputy Prime Minister. Both quite remarkable outcomes, in different ways.

For Bill, after his huge election loss in 2002, the conventional wisdom was he would never become Prime Minister. He lost the leadership the next year, and then as Key ascended the assumption was that when Key went, the leadership would go to the next generation.

But no one thought Key would go at the height of popularity for National, polling at 50%. The assumption was it would happen after an election loss, or heading into an election National was unlikely to win. Then you would go to the next generation. But Key shocked almost everyone by going out on top, and at a time when the economy was so strong, that Finance Minister English was the logical replacement.

Paula’s ascendancy is remarkable in a different way. When she was a 17 year old teenage Maori solo mother, the thought that one day she would be Deputy Prime Minister would have been thought farcical. Key’s rise to the top was as the son of a solo mother, but Paula’s was as a solo mother herself.

And could you imagine even a couple of decades ago, that a National Party Deputy Prime Minister would be a former teenage solo mother?

So it is now the Bill and Paula show. And while they both got there on the basis of their success as Ministers, the way they balance each other would be hard to engineer a better outcome showing the broad church that National now is. Look at their profiles

  • Bill is a social conservative and Paula a social liberal
  • Bill is/was a South Islander and Paula an Aucklander
  • Bill is male and Paula female
  • Bill is Caucasian and Paula Maori
  • Bill is a bit reserved and Paula rather less so
  • Bill is rural and Paula urban

Now none of this means they will be successful in their new roles. That will come down to how they lead, their decisions on Cabinet, on policy, how they respond to issues, their communication skills, their empathy etc. But it does indicate they have the potential to do a well balanced leadership team.

Greens want to legalise cannabis

The Herald reports:

The Green Party has released its updated drug law reform policy, which would regulate access to cannabis and allow for medicinal cannabis.

It would mean adults will no longer be criminalised for growing or using small amounts of marijuana.

Health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter says the policy is evidence based, and criminalisation of marijuana does more harm than good.

She says the laws are out of date and decriminalisation would mean people’s mental and physical wellbeing is prioritised ahead of making them a criminal.

Ms Genter says it would allow the drug to be regulated and create safer communities.

It would also open the door to medical marijuana – doctors would be able to prescribe the drug for chronically ill patients.

I agree with them on this. Criminalising it has not worked and is being abandoned.

The situation in the US is:

  • Legal for recreational use in eight states
  • Decriminalised for recreational use in 13 states
  • Legal for medical use (but not recreational) in 24 states
  • Prohibited entirely in five states

Shelly Bay update

Stuff reports:

The future shape of Wellington’s Shelly Bay revamp is becoming clearer, with new plans hinting at more than 350 homes, a boutique hotel, a brewery, a rest home and a ferry service.

If I had to go into a rest home one day, I’d want one at Shelly Bay.

But Wellingtonians, who own a large chunk of Shelly Bay, will not get a say on whether resource consent for the $500 million development on the Miramar Peninsula site should get the final tick.

The non-notified resource consent is currently was working its way through Wellington City Council processes and only council staff – not even elected councillors – will decide whether it gets the green light.

As is proper. If an application complies with the rules, it should not be subject to a popular vote. It is a matter between land owner and developer.

According to the consent application there will be a 140-resident rest home, a boutique hotel with 50-odd rooms, 280 apartments, 58 townhouses and 14 standalone houses at Shelly Bay. …

There was also potential for a community centre, micro-brewery, restaurant, cafe, artist’s studio and shop, a gym, childcare and a medical centre.

Please let there be a cafe there!

Merkel backs niqab ban reports:

Outlining her strategy to counter a wave of populism that has consumed key allies abroad, Merkel vowed there would not be a repeat of last year’s record refugee influx.

She also stressed it was legitimate for Germany to expect newcomers to integrate, and this included rejection of the niqab full-face veil.

“The full veil must be banned wherever it is legally possible,” she told the annual gathering of her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

I’m not into banning particular pieces of clothing but I think society can say that we don’t want people walking around with no face showing at all – whether that be balaclavas or niqab. How can people integrate if you can’t even show your face.

Fairfax tightens up their comments policy

Fairfax have announced new moderation rules for comments. They are not to :

* contain offensive language (including use of symbols);

* include personal attacks of any kind (including mocking other readers, or abusing Fairfax journalists or contributors);

* are likely to offend or target any ethnic, racial, nationality or religious group;

* are homophobic, transphobic, sexist, offensive or obscene;

* contain spam or include links to other sites;

* are clearly off topic;

* impersonate an individual or organisation, are fraudulent, defamatory of any person, threatening or invasive of another’s privacy or otherwise illegal;

* are trolling or threatening;

* infringe on copyrights or trademarks;

* are self-promoting;

* violate the law or breach court-ordered suppressions or have the potential to breach future suppressions; or

* constitute a contempt of court or that contain details of cases and individuals before the courts;

* violate our terms and conditions for user generated content;

* are too long (we recommend no more than approximately 200 words);

*promote, advertise or solicit the sale of any goods or services

* just generally aren’t very nice.

Most of them look sensible but some are rather subjective.

An extremism warning

Nicolas Pirsoul writes in the Herald:

Isis, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terrorist organisations are all inspired by a particular understanding of Islam: Salafism.

Salafism is an extremist, literalist, and intolerant form of Sunni Islam. Its origins are hard to trace, but it is commonly argued that 13/14th century theologian Ibn Taymiyyah strongly influenced the development of modern Salafi thought nearly five hundred years later. …

In Belgium, my country of birth, the March 22 bombings which killed 32 civilians and injured over 300, revealed two major issues: the strong presence of Salafi ideology in Belgian Sunni mosques on the one hand and the ignorance and leniency of Belgian authorities towards this issue on the other. These two major problems are also evident in many other Western nations.

Indeed, a number of Belgian investigative journalists have exposed the radical discourse of several preachers in Brussels and other cities. These Salafi-minded discourses are heavily at odds with values such as democracy, freedom of speech, or religious tolerance.

These preachers are not terrorists but they provide the environment for extremism to flourish.

First, it is important to recognise the existence of a problem and not to underestimate it. The recent hate speech controversy, involving a cleric from the at-Taqwa mosque in Manukau, is only the tip of the iceberg and follows a well-established pattern of other events involving Salafi clerics preaching in New Zealand, such as Egyptian cleric Sheikh Abu Abdullah a couple of years ago. It would be naïve to think that our nation’s Sunni oriented mosques are immune to Salafi ideology and its intolerant and sometimes violent interpretation of Islam.

We are far from immune.

Second, it is important to understand and adopt the right attitude towards the problem of Islamic extremism. Extremism thrives on division. Mainstream stereotyping and discrimination against Muslims has helped Salafism, and its Manichean worldview, to grow in Europe. It is therefore critical that New Zealand should remain an inclusive and tolerant nation by embracing its diverse Muslim community.

The majority of Muslims, conservatives or not, reject violence and intolerance. They are allies in the fight against terrorism.

By creating a New Zealand model of multicultural citizenship, where Kiwis of all ethnic groups and faiths live with and are supportive of each other, we can become a role model for the world and avoid replicating other nations’ mistakes.

Well said.

NZ third top in human freedom index

Cato has published their 2016 Human Freedom Index. The top 10 are:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Switzerland
  3. New Zealand
  4. Ireland
  5. Denmark
  6. Canada
  7. UK
  8. Australia
  9. Finland
  10. Netherlands

NZ is up one place from 2014. We are ranked 22nd for personal freedom and 3rd for economic freedom.

Our group scores (out of 10) are”

  1. Movement 10.00
  2. Relationship 10.00
  3. Security and safety 9.86
  4. Sound money 9.45
  5. Expression and information 9.33
  6. Association 8.75
  7. Legal system & property rights 8.73
  8. Freedom to trade 8.65
  9. Regulation 8.51
  10. Rule of law 7.9
  11. Religion 7.50
  12. Size of Government 6.39

An anti-Semitic former MP

It is indeed noxious. A nasty little anti-semitic dig, which incidentally is also incorrect. Vogel and Bell were also Jewish New Zealanders who became Prime Minister.

And who is Bill Sutton of Napier? Well presumably it is the former Labour MP who was in Parliament from 1984 to 1990.


Treasury has a useful pdf summarising the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update. Key data includes:

  • GDP forecast to grow at 3.7% this year and 3.5% next year
  • Unemployment rate to drop to 4.2% by 2019
  • Net migration to slow from 70,000 to 20,000
  • Inflation to sneak up to 2%
  • OBEGAL surpluses of:
    • $0.5b in 2017
    • $3.3b in 2018
    • $5.4b in 2019
    • $6.8b in 2020
    • $8.5n in 2021
  • NZ Super Fund contributions to resume in 2021
  • Net debt to reduce from 2018
  • Cost of NZ Super to go from $12.3b this year to $16.0b in 2021
  • Core crown expenses to go from 29.4% of GDP to 27.7%
  • Core crown revenue to go from $76.1b this year to $97.1b in 2021

There is no doubt in my mind that tax cuts are a matter of when and how much, not if. No National led Government can soak up an $8.5 billion surplus by only increasing spending. That is what Cullen did.

We are one of the few countries in the world to have such a great set of books, and such strong economic growth forecast. Surplus give options – you can pay off debt, reduce taxes and increase spending. A sensible government will do all three, not just one or two of them.

The race for Deputy

As with the race for PM and Leader, I’m going to record public pledges of support for Deputy Leader (and PM). So far they are:

Paula Bennett

  1. Paula Bennett
  2. Amy Adams
  3. Jono Naylor
  4. Alfred Ngaro
  5. Nuk Korako
  6. Chester Borrows
  7. Mark Mitchell
  8. Ian McKelvie
  9. Brett Hudson
  10. Barbara Kuriger
  11. Louise Upston
  12. Murray McCully
  13. Joanne Hayes
  14. Jacqui Dean
  15. Nikki Kaye
  16. Parmjeet Parmat
  17. Alastair Scott
  18. Jo Goodhew
  19. Craig Foss
  20. Nicky Wagner
  21. Hekia Parata
  22. Lindsay Tisch
  23. Jian Yang

Simon Bridges

  1. Simon Bridges
  2. Todd Muller
  3. Jonathan Young
  4. Todd Barclay
  5. Jami-Lee Ross
  6. Sarah Dowie
  7. Todd McClay
  8. Paul Foster-Bell
  9. Simon O’Connor
  10. Paul Goldsmith

The first to 30 wins!

All over in 75 hours

So 75 hours after John Key announced his resignation, National has effectively selected a new leader and Prime Minister. Hard to imagine a better outcome politically as the longer the leadership of a party (and country) is unsettled, the more disruptive it can be.

It was slightly surreal the way it was resolved. Mainly for my own interest I started counting up the number of MPs who had publicly pledged for English, and it was around a dozen. So I blogged it as a useful resource for others. Then over the morning more and more MPs made public statements on Facebook and Twitter and suddenly it became apparent that English may get a majority of caucus publicly pledged to him in advance of the actual vote on Monday. And I was following this from the women’s ward of Wellington Hospital (nothing serious, just a follow up) where I was holed up for six hours!

This is not how it has been done in the past. In the past few MPs publicly declare whom they are backing, and you find out in caucus whether the private pledges of support eventuate. But in the age of social media, we had a running count occurring here and on Twitter, and within seconds of the 30th MP declaring for English, it was judged to be all over.

As the English count got up into the 20s, I was amused to have a couple of MPs contact me to point out I had overlooked their public declarations, so they got added to the list and it started to look more and more likely English would get there during the afternoon.

Once he hit 30, Collins and then Coleman conceded. I understand Jonathan said something along the lines of he didn’t just go with the count on Kiwiblog, but verified things with a few phone calls – which was sensible :-).

I think the party is the better for having had Jonathan and Judith stand, rather than a coronation. It allowed the backbench MPs to deliver a message that they do want rejuvenation beyond just the leadership, and also that they want greater consultation and input into major decisions. Both are stances I agree with. If there had been no contest, then those desires would have simmered away on the backbench, rather than be clearly communicated.

I think English won because at the end of the day the major foundation of the Government’s success has been as very competent managers or shepherds of the economy. Being good economic managers is not enough to win the support of the country, but it is a pre-condition. Without that, the other stuff won’t get a look in. English had the established successful record in this area and that gave him the advantage.

English now has a tough job – he has to deliver some rejuvenation to the Cabinet, but not so much to destabilise the Government. But it does require more than simply Bill takes John’s job, Steven takes Bill’s job and Steven’s portfolios get farmed out.

Key things to look out for are:

  • Who gets elected Deputy Prime Minister
  • How many backbenchers get promoted to the ministry
  • Which lower ranked Ministers get moved up to the front bench
  • If English continues with the “kitchen” Cabinet or strategy group, who makes that up
  • Which Minister/s picks up Economic Development and Tertiary Education

Dunne on Labour and the former broad church

Peter Dunne wrote:

I remember being lectured at University that to understand New Zealand politics one had to appreciate that Labour was too hide-bound by its principles and its past, and consequently too often unelectable. National, on the other hand, stood for nothing other than not being Labour, and beat them more often than not at election time as a consequence. Harsh, perhaps, but certainly true.


So when I heard the current Labour leader berating the former Labour Mayor of Porirua as not “true Labour” for allegedly contemplating standing for the National Party, I felt I was back in the time warp. “My party, right or wrong” thinking has returned with a vengeance under the current Labour leadership. The focus seems to be more on building a cadre of proper-thinking members, rather than a broad based organisation, capable of accommodating many different voices, but coalescing around some common broad goals to present to the electorate. No, the primary goal now seems to be to ensure the ideological purity of those who represent the Party, which narrows its base considerably. The test for advancement is no longer merit based, but on whether one is “true” Labour or not, however vaguely that is defined. Labour’s leaders used to proclaim it was a “broad church”, but now it has become a “narrow sect”.


In my darker moments, I think of the Labour Party I joined and how it has changed over the years. I feel sad, not bitter, that it has moved away from so many people like me, who used to be its advocates, and has written off people of independence and aspiration as not fitting its core values. Yet, we still have a burning social conscience, and still believe there is a place for a major Party of compassion that can balance the accounts, and preserve the environment. Today, National has well and truly outflanked Labour on those scores, and only Labour seems not to realise it.
The whole column is worth a read – includes why Peter joined Labour.

Youth justice age raised to 18

Stuff reports:

The youth justice age has been raised to 18, ensuring offenders 17 and under will be dealt with in the youth court, away from more hardened criminals dealt with in District Courts. 

The youth justice system will be extended to include lower risk 17-year-olds, Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley have announced today.

The changes, which will take place by 2019, will ensure that all 17-year-old offenders are dealt with according to which jurisdiction is best suited to the particular case.

The vast majority of 17-year-old offenders are lower risk. They will be dealt with in the Youth Court where the interventions are more targeted and lead to better results.
17-year-olds who are serious, violent offenders who commit a range of offences like murder, manslaughter, sexual assaults, aggravated robbery, arson, or serious assaults will continue to be dealt with by adult courts. 
I’m okay with this change, so long as the more serious offenders do go to adult courts. I support having standard ages where you go from being a minor to an adult.

The Economist on NZ and Key

The Economist reports:

On a long list of yardsticks his country of only 4.7m people—“the last bus stop on the planet”, as Mr Key puts it, has been a striking success. The World Bank recently rated it the easiest place on earth to do business. The Legatum Insitute, a think-tank in London, judged it—by crunching nine different criteria—the world’s most prosperous spot. Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption monitor, reckons it to be the world’s fourth most honest. A clutch of other league tables puts it in the top ranks—for happiness, healthiness, democracy, freedom, among others. Bloomberg recently reported that a growing band of magnates from the United States, Russia and China (among them Jack Ma of Alibaba, reckoned to be China’s richest man) have bought, or want to buy, hideaway homes in safe and beautiful New Zealand.

The bald figures testify to New Zealand’s perkiness. The city of Christchurch, near the epicentre of a devastating earthquake in 2011, in which 185 people perished, is bouncing back. The national economy has been growing at a steady 3.5% a year; unemployment is under 5%. The employment rate is one of the highest in the world. Wages, says Mr Key, have risen by a quarter in real terms since 2008.

The increase in real wages is a big factor is why so many are happy. That is what makes a difference to families.

Mr Key, a former currency trader in Singapore and London whose own wealth has been reckoned at more than $35m, has applied what he calls a policy of “radical incrementalism”. He has lowered income tax rates (to 33% at the top), brought the national debt down to 25% and partially privatised a batch of state utilities. At the same time he has raised VAT from 12.5% to 15%, reformed health care and increased various benefits (for instance, by making prescriptions and visits to the doctor free for children under 13).

And got the books back into surplus.

Whether or not the National Party retains its ascendancy next year, Mr Key must go down as one of New Zealand’s most successful leaders. And New Zealand, under his stewardship, can claim to be one of the most successful countries in the world.

Not a bad tribute.

The Horowhenua Deputy Mayor

Stuff reports:

The Horowhenua District’s deputy mayoralty is up in the air after a meeting descended into farce.

Ross Campbell was voted out by councillors, mayor Michael Feyen moved to reinstate him, councillors voted to appoint Wayne Bishop and then Feyen said he would reappoint Campbell. The council will now seek legal advice. 

“I will, after [the vote] is taken, be exercising my right to choose the deputy mayor that I think I need,” Feyen said, in a controversial and unheralded move on Wednesday.

The Local Government Act seems pretty clear to me, that the Mayor can not just appoint a new Deputy Mayor if his initial choice is removed by the Council.

Section 41A(3)(a) states:

A mayor has the following powers: to appoint the deputy mayor

Which he did. But S41A(4)(a) also states:

However, nothing in subsection (3) limits or prevents a territorial authority from removing, in accordance with clause 18 of Schedule 7, a deputy mayor appointed by the mayor under subsection (3)(a)

Which the Council has done. So what does Clause 18 say?

(1) At a meeting that is in accordance with this clause, a territorial authority or regional council may remove its chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor from office.

Which they did

(2) If a chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor is removed from office at that meeting, the territorial authority or regional council may elect a new chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor at that meeting.

So fairly clear that the Mayor can not appoint a new Deputy Mayor if his original choice is removed from office.

However note 4(b)

A resolution or requisition must indicate whether or not, if the chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor is removed from office, a new chairperson, deputy chairperson, or deputy mayor is to be elected at the meeting if a majority of the total membership of the territorial authority or regional council (excluding vacancies) so resolves.

So the meeting requisition needed to specify that they would elect a new Deputy Mayor, if successful. So long as they did that, the law is pretty clear.

What numbers for English?

I’ve been tracking public endorsements of MPs on the leadership. So far no National MP has said they are voting for Jonathan Coleman or Judith Collins. That does not mean they have no support – just that their supporters are not publicly saying what they will do.

Bill English has had a number of MPs say they will be voting for him. If he gets to 30 (including himself), then it is basically all over. So who are the public endorsements to date:

  1. John Key
  2. Bill English
  3. Nikki Kaye
  4. Michael Woodhouse
  5. Nathan Guy
  6. Nick Smith
  7. Anne Tolley
  8. Louise Upston
  9. Hekia Parata
  10. Murray McCully
  11. Simon Bridges
  12. Nuk Korako
  13. Sarah Dowie
  14. Chester Borrows
  15. Paul Foster-Bell
  16. Paula Bennett
  17. Brett Hudson
  18. Jacqui Dean
  19. Jami-Lee Ross
  20. Todd Muller
  21. Amy Adams
  22. Chris Bishop
  23. Jo Hayes
  24. Mark Mitchell
  25. Chris Finlayson
  26. Jonathan Young
  27. Todd Barclay
  28. Alfred Ngaro
  29. Jono Naylor
  30. Barbara Kuriger
  31. Gerry Brownlee
  32. Jian Yang

So English is at 32 confirmed votes.

Note this is based on public statements and media reports only. It is not a predictor of how MPs who have not stated a preference will vote.

I’ll update the list as and if any more MPs state a public preference.

Update: Bill English now has 30 31 32 votes pledged to him in public and is the presumptive Prime Minister.

Shearer to quit for UN job

Audrey Young reports:

Labour MP David Shearer is poised to resign from Parliament to take up the tough job of leading the United Nations’ mission in war-torn South Sudan.

The latest political bombshell will mean a byelection in his Mt Albert electorate early next year, the first electoral challenge for the new Prime Minister.

A recommendation for his appointment has been put before the UN Security Council in New York by outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Once approved this week, Shearer will work alongside the commander of 18,000 peace-keepers, with a budget of about $1 billion.

Any of the Security Council’s 15 members has two days to object, but given Shearer’s previous experience as a senior UN leader in trouble-spots, he is likely to be accepted.

Congrats to David Shearer – he’ll be great in the role.

It has been known for many months that Shearer wanted to exit Parliament, and who could blame him for not wanting to stay in the Labour caucus.

What is interesting is that a very reliable source (from Labour) told me that Shearer was up for an even more prominent UN role in the middle of the year – head of all UN operations in Syria. He had the full backing of the Government for the job. But he got effectively vetoed. Who by? His predecessor at the MP for Mt Albert who thought another NZer getting a top UN job would interfere with her bid for UN Secretary General.

The appointment is a personal one by the UN Secretary-General. It is not one that required a nomination by the Government.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Shearer, who is Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, had the strong support of the Government.

“It is a huge deal,” he said.

“[Security Council members have] a couple of days to raise any concerns, so it is not a done deal yet.

“But it is a big feather in his cap.

“This is the toughest peace-keeping assignment on the planet. It is a difficult and dangerous place.”

The three-year civil war in South Sudan has forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

I didn’t realise who big the civil war was there.

Good to see the Government continue the tradition of supporting New Zealanders for top roles, regardless of their political party.

A byelection in Mt Albert will be the second for Labour to defend, following last weekend’s success in keeping Mt Roskill. Shearer won Mt Albert in 2014 with a 10,656 majority.

But like Mt Roskill, National polled higher than Labour in the party vote, by 3536 votes.

There could be a lot of people interested in the Mt Albert candidacy, including existing List MPs.

The party vote figure is a bit misleading as the Greens get a lot of party vote there also. Combined they got 18,000 votes to 14,300 for National.