State of the race #3: English tested, and Labour’s ‘talented 19’

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The race for the country’s top jobs are beginning to take shape, and with one by-election to go before the big game, the parties are beginning to be tested in a manner of ways. For Bill English, the big test comes with performing and presenting before the media – the less gaffes and the more memorable, likable soundbites the better. His first few press conferences concerned the Mount Albert by-election, which the Prime Minister has announced will be held on the 25th of February next year. It was his quip that he didn’t know what a “feminist” was and that he didn’t identify as such that drew the most interest, with some online even comparing the quote to one that might be made by gaffe-prone former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. But, despite the expected outrage from the left, the statement is unlikely to disappoint the Prime Minister’s conservative base – it may, perhaps, even impress them.

That didn’t stop Palmerston North’s Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway taking his outrage to Facebook, writing that he identified as a “feminist” and that someone who does believes in the equality of the sexes. Mr. Lees-Galloway faced a backlash, with those taking English’s side stating they preferred to call themselves “humanist” given the negative connotations with the term “feminist”. Others, however, commented that the perceived disadvantages facing women were “liberal lies”. The feedback prompted Mr. Lees-Galloway to tweet his sympathy to feminist activist and fellow Labourite Deborah Russell and state that he wished people cared “as much about poverty” as they did about someone calling themselves a feminist.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett backed English’s position, saying that as minister for Women’s affairs she only saw herself as a “part time” feminist. This caused some to remind others that this was in fact an improvement on the previous Minister for women’s stance, that of Taupo’s National MP Louise Upston, who said she didn’t identify as a feminist at all.

Barclay re-selected along with a swag of sitting MPs

After a few weeks of speculation, sitting baby-of-the-house Todd Barclay, National’s MP for Clutha-Southland, has been re-selected to contest for the party. The electorate would have never changed hands to Labour, voting National by a huge majority in every election since its creation, but Barclay faced an internal battle from Simon Flood, a Queenstown local who has worked overseas for as long as Barclay has been alive. However, Barclay was returned with the support of Clutha-Southland delegates, much to the happiness of right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton who tweeted that Barclay’s triumph was the failure of the “Wellington … Michelle Boag candidate” Simon Flood. National MPs Paul Foster-Bell and Jami-Lee Ross also tweeted their delight.

Labour’s Tamaki Makarau MP Peeni Henare was also re-selected as his party’s candidate after speculation he was being encouraged to stand on the party’s list. Nuk Korako, National’s Canterbury List MP, was re-selected to contest the south Christchurch seat of Port Hills currently held by Labour’s Ruth Dyson.
In the New Lynn Labour selection, Deborah Russell is now facing a challenge from former council candidate Greg Presland.

Mount Albert by-election ‘race’

Along with announcing the confirmation of the by-election date, Prime Minister Bill English confirmed the National Party would not contest Mount Albert. Mount Albert last went to the polls in a by-election in 2009, in which National’s candidate Melissa Lee failed to reach 17% of the vote following controversial comments about South Auckland “murderers” finding their way into the middle class central city suburbs that Mount Albert covers. However, National won a majority of the party votes in 2014 with 38.9% to Labour’s 29.3%, which could be down to the boundary changes. Nonetheless, Mount Albert is no longer Labour heartland, with the Greens inspiring a huge 21.7% that election. Labour’s presumptive candidate, Jacinda Ardern, said National’s decision was “odd” but Prime Minister Bill English said Ardern would be very difficult for National to beat. Two of the government’s support partners, ACT and United Future, have both confirmed they won’t contest.

Thus far, the only candidate aside from Ardern to put himself forward is former MANA Movement candidate and Unite unionist Joe Carolan. The Irish-born far-left activist says he will contest the electorate under the “Socialists” banner, and says New Zealand needs to bring “the ‘s’ word” back to the mainstream. He’ll be running on a series of left-wing policies, including a $20 minimum wage, rent controls, the “physical” halting of state house tenant evictions, “standing against racism”, supporting local environmental/eco initiatives, funding playcentres and increasing taxes on high income earners.

The National Business Review (NBR) has also reported that Green Party transport spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter is considering entering the race against Ardern.

FEATURE: The talented 19 –  the MPs Hooton says Labour needs

The National Business Review (NBR) has published an article penned by right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton titled “How Labour can win” in which he refers to nineteen talented Labour up-and-comers that he believes need to be fast-tracked to parliament.

Hooton also lists MPs that he believes have spent their worth, over-stayed their welcome, or display no political talent at all. Namely, and in no particular order: Trevor Mallard, Ruth Dyson, Annette King, Nanaia Mahuta, Sue Moroney, Clare Curran, Kris Faafoi and Adrian Rurawhe.

Trevor Mallard and Annette King were first elected to parliament in 1984, when David Lange became Prime Minister. Mallard was the MP for Hamilton West and King the new MP for Horowhenua. On the other hand, Adrian Rurawhe was only elected just over two years ago as the MP for the Eastern Maori seat previously held by Tariana Turia.

Hooton calls these MPs the “deadwood”.

The National Party, to the contrary, have been refreshing well with the resignation of nine PMs. Among those, Maurice Williamson and Murray McCully who have served in parliament since 1987.

So, who does Matthew Hooton see as Labour’s talented upcomers waiting in the wings? Let’s take a look at these ‘fresh faces’. Here are the top 10:

1. Ginny Andersen
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Andersen was Labour’s candidate for the extremely marginal seat of Ohariu, held by Peter Dunne. She has been selected as the party’s candidate to contest Hutt South at the next election, which could easily swing to National’s Chris Bishop who has newfound name recognition. With the loss of Andersen’s talent in Ohariu, where she shrunk Peter Dunne’s majority to its smallest ever in 2014, Labour and the Greens have since struck a deal in the electorate.

A 2014 article for The Standard blog declares Andersen a “rising star” and “very impressive”. She comes from a unionist background with family members holding jobs in teaching, trucking and nursing which inspired her to join the Labour Party. She is a mother and spent the election campaign pregnant with her newest and says her family, like many others, struggles to foot the bills and grocery prices – a message which could well work for her in the comparably poorer Hutt South.

2. Campbell Barry

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Barry also contested Labour’s pre-selection to take on Bishop. After losing out to Andersen, commentator Chris Trotter complained it was Labour’s “man ban” in action and that the party was preferring gender balance over talent. He currently serves on the Hutt City Council as the local member for Wainuiomata. Barry, a rugby player, also previously served on the Wainuiomata Community Board after spending years overseas.

3. Duncan Webb
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Labour’s new candidate for Christchurch Central is already on the campaign trail, doorknocking and organisning meetings. However, despite his new ‘Yes Webb Can’ motto to get his name out, Webb has already built a profile for himself in the quake city through legal work. He is a lawyer and professor by trade, assisting many victims and businesses with their various legal battles since the earthquakes, especially those concerning faults with the EQC (Earthquake Commission). He’s also worked on various social justice projects which includes the Howard League – an organisation concerned with prisoners’ rights, and has worked “to get innocent people out of jail”. One of his more prominent cases was working with the Problem Gambling Foundation when they sued Sky City.

4. Jo Luxton
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Luxton was one of the first Labour candidates to be confirmed for the 2017 election, being selected to contest the seat of Rangitata back in May. Originating from the Mid Canterbury region, Luxton is the owner of a childcare centre in the small town of Hinds south of Ashburton. Luxton takes over the position from Labour’s 2014 candidate, Steve Gibson, who was called to be sacked after he made anti-Semitic comments online during the campaign. Luxton resembles a demographic where one might not consider Labour as a potential player; she’s a rural businesswoman, with aspiring potential to breakthrough in the National seat. She’s known in the community, being a founding member of the local citizens’ association.

5. Liz Craig
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Southland-based Liz Craig is a serious up and comer, proving she can generate swings towards her as a Labour candidate in heavily blue electorates during elections when National is performing strong. She won 19% of the vote in Clutha-Southland, the second strongest National seat in the country in 2014 – well above Labour’s primary vote (14%). That represented a swing away from National’s candidate, Todd Barclay of 5.46%. This election she’ll be contesting the far more marginal Invercargill seat to the south. Craig specialises in health, serving as a Doctor in the region for more than 25 years and plans to contest the election on healthcare, as well as regional funding and development.

6. Deborah Russell
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Deborah Russell is a senior lecturer at Palmerston North’s Massey University in the Accountancy School. Russell also administrates the Left Side Story blog where she says she’s worked as an accountant and lectured taxation, business ethics and political theory on both sides of the Tasman. She contested the strong National seat of Rangitikei in 2014, losing out to National’s Ian McKelvie, but plans to take a stab at the fairly safe Labour Auckland seat of New Lynn in 2017. Active on social media, Russell has developed a popular following and media attention without being an MP.

7. Penny Hulse
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If she already looks like an experienced politician, it’s because she is. South African-born Penny Hulse served as Deputy mayor to Len Brown and Auckland’s centre-left council for its first three years as a super city. She was pushed to take the mayoral chains following the exposing of Mayor Brown’s affair in 2013, but never raised interest. She is currently serving out her term as the councillor for Waitakere. Experienced, tested and not lacking in name recognition, national politics seems like a natural next step for Hulse.

8. Greg Presland
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Presland originates from the left of the party, being a vocal critic of former member Nick Leggett even when the ex Porirua mayor was a card-carrying Labourite. He rejects calls for the party to lurch to its so-called “pragmatic” wing and says he identifies with the “utopian left” (as Leggett nicknamed Labour’s more progressive members). Demonstrating himself as a strong grassroots campaigner at the local elections this year, Presland narrowly missed out on winning the third spot in the heavily contested Waitakere seat. He is a prominent member of the dominant Future West ticket in West Auckland.

9. Claire Szabo
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Still in her 30s, Szabo first contested an election in 2014, gunning for the very safe National seat of North Shore which is currently held by Maggie Barry. In 2010 she was named ‘young executive of the year’ for her work as CEO of the not-for-profit English Language Partners New Zealand (ELPNZ). She’s also a dual citizen of both New Zealand and Hungary and first became a CEO at 27. She currently serves as the CEO for Habit for Humanity, a not-for-profit that builds homes and constructs safe water systems in developing countries and areas devastated by natural disaster.



10. Jerome Mika
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Mika helped to generate a huge swing away from Judith Collins in hear seat of Papakura at the previous election. Mika hails from the large and growing Pacifica community in South Auckland and inspired many members to campaign for him when he last ran. He founded the North Shore Pacifica festival.

___________________________

Ps resigning in 2017 (so far):
Labour: Clayton Cosgrove (List), David Cunliffe (New Lynn).
National: Chester Borrows (Whanganui), John Key (Helensville), Jono Naylor (List), Hekia Parata (List), Lindsay Tisch (Waikato), Maurice Williamson (Pakuranga), Sam Lotu-Iga (Maungakiekie), Craig Foss (Tukituki), Murray McCully (East Coast Bays).
Green: Catherine Delahunty (List), Steffan Browning (List).

MPs standing again, but only for the List (so far):
Trevor Mallard (Labour) MP for Hutt South since 1996, MP for Pencarrow from 1993 till 1996 and MP for Hamilton West from 1984 till 1990.
Annette King (Labour) MP for Rongotai since 1996, MP for Miramar from 1993 till 1996 and MP for Horowhenua from 1984 till 1990.

The marginals:
Auckland Central (held by Nikki Kaye of National by a 600 vote majority versus Labour).
Hutt South (held by Trevor Mallard of Labour by a 709 vote majority versus National’s Chris Bishop. Virginia Andersen will be Labour’s candidate in 2017, replacing Mallard).
Ohariu (held by Peter Dunne of United Future by a 710 vote majority versus Labour).
Te Tai Tokerau (held by Kelvin Davis of Labour by a 743 vote majority versus the MANA Movement’s Hone Harawira).
The polls:
Latest poll (as of Thursday, 22 December 2016)
Roy Morgan poll for November/December
National 45.0%, Labour 28.5%, Greens 14.5%, NZ First 7.5%, Maori 0.5%, ACT 0.5%, United Future 0.0%, Conservative 0.5%, Internet Party 0.5%, MANA Movement 0.0%
(GOVERNMENT 46.0% OPPOSITION 50.5%).

Poll change: National -4.5, Labour +5.5, Greens +0.0, NZ First -0.5, Maori -0.5, ACT -0.5, United Future -0.5, Conservative +0.0, Internet Party +0.5, MANA Movement +0.0.

GOVERNMENT -6.5, OPPOSTION +5.0

Poll average: National 47%, Labour 28%, Greens 11%, NZ First 9%, Maori 1.3%, ACT 0.5%, Conservative 0.2%, MANA Movement 0.1%, United Future 0.0%.
(No change)

The leaders’ social media performance:
Facebook ‘likes’ as at Thursday 22/12/2016.
1) Winston Peters 70,694 (+434)
2) Bill English 45,302 (+12,420)
3) Andrew Little 29,224 (+96)
4) Metiria Turei 13,234 (+23)
5) Te Ururoa Flavell 12,625 (+43)
6) Marama Fox 7,875 (+44)
7) James Shaw 7,618 (+4)
8) David Seymour 4,126 (+26)
Twitter followers
1) Metiria Turei 21.2K (+.1)
2) Winston Peters 13.6K (+.1)
3) Bill English 11.7K (+.7)
4) Andrew Little 11.6K (+.1)
5) Peter Dunne 8.0K (+.0)
6) James Shaw 6.2K (+.0)
7) Te Uruora Flavell 5.2K (+.0)
8) Marama Fox 3.6K (+.0)
9) David Seymour 3.5K (+.0)

– Bennett Morgan, Capital HardTalk.

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