A dry talent pool

Matthew Hooton, in the SST, labels Parekura Horomia as “possibly the most incompetent person ever to have held a ministerial warrant in New Zealand”. He may be right, but for my money George Hawkins was definitely a contender also.

Hooton goes on to conclude that Labour’s lack of talent comes from the fact they have used their party list to protect incumbent MPs, ranking them all at the top for the last few elections. You do this to avoid short-term pain, but it causes long-term pain.

National has had a varied record over the years in regards to does it protect MPs by placing them high on the List. In 1996 and 1999 the Government had majorities of one, so National couldn’t afford to upset an MP with a low list ranking as they could bring down the Government. There was no formal decision to place all MPs in winnable spots but that is just the way it turned out.

In 2002 then President Michelle Boag made it very clear there would be no list protection for some MPs, and effectively encouraged electorate challenges also. This did result in gaining new MPs such as Don Brash, John Key and Judith Collins but caused a huge amount of friction and resentment in the Caucus and wider party.

In 2005, for the first time, National puts all of its 25 MPs seeking re-election in the top 30 spots. The rationale was that clearly National was going to get at least 40 MPs, so as there was no question of being able to get some new talent into Parliament why go out of the way to offend some MPs by having them receive lowish rankings?

Many were concerned that this may set a bad precedent for the future, and it was seen as a one off. It will be most interesting to observe what approach National takes at the next election. I believe it is essential to avoid the problems that Labour has with its lack of talent, and not have incumbent MPs given protected positions on the list.

Of course ten of the new MPs, got there by winning seats off Labour (or Winston) so they will be hoping not to have to rely on a list ranking to get back in.

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