Helen doesn’t want to spend the next three years as a backbench Opposition MP. And Phil Goff doesn’t want her to overshadow him. So normally we would expect to see a by-election in Mt Albert next year.
But it is proving rather difficult for Labour. You see Michael Cullen, being a List MP, will probably resign from Parliament in early 2009. This will bring in No 37 on the Labour List, Damien O’Connor. Now some in Labour probably think Damien should give way to new blood, but they’ll tolerate him returning.
Then we have Helen resigning, which will trigger a by-election. Labour will need to select a candidate for this seat, and let there be no mistake – Helen will pick the candidate. And who is favoured to get her blessing – List MP Phil Twyford. Twyford is highly regarded.
But here is the problem, Twyford is already an MP. So what happens if he wins the Mt Albert by-election? Well he would then resign his seat as a List MP, and that would bring in the next person on the Labour list. And who is No 38? It’s Judith Tizard!
Now Helen has won Mt Albert with some big majorities, but a lot of that has been personal. The party vote has been much closer. And if Mt Albert voters works out that voting for Twyford means Tizard returns to Parliament, then the seat could fall to a good National candidate. I can imagine a lot of money would be spent pointing out the nightmare scenario.
Now some might say, it’s easy. Just get Judith to agree to stand aside. After all, she probably doesn’t want to be back there by herself.
But who is next on the list. Well the next four candidates are Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher and Dave Hereora. The four stooges without the humour. Persuading Mt Albert residents to vote for any of those to return to Parliament could be a challenge.
So who is next in place 43? Louisa Wall. Now I think Louisa was a talented MP and would be a boon to Labour’s ranks. But she is seriously unpopular with many of her colleagues who don’t want her back. So who is next at 44? Lesley Soper – she would attract more shoe throwing in a Labour Caucus meeting than George W Bush attracts in Iraq.
Spots 45 to 49 are all vacant as they won their electorate seats. Finally in spot 50 you have Hamish McCracken. Well at least he is an Aucklander. However having been given three unwinnable seats and rankings in a row, he is hardly in high favour.
So you see the problem for Labour. Either Helen has to stay on for the full term, or someone other than Twyford is the candidate, or they risk the public working out voting for Labour will bring a plonker back in on the list and losing your predecessor’s seat in a byelection would see Goff rolled.
So I am picking Helen won’t be going anywhere until they work out a way around their dilemna.