Monday, November 24, 2014

The new Labour line-up

Today Andrew Little, Leader of the NZ Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, announced the new line-up for the party in Parliament. I think it’s a pretty good list overall, with a good balance of experience and freshness.

Eight of the top ten were elected after 2008, which means that most of the front bench are relatively new MPs. This is balanced by the experience of Annette King as Deputy Leader, and Nanaia Mahuta at Number 4. Grant Robertson at Number 3 and Finance Spokesperson is also a very good choice: He’s one of the ablest debaters in Parliament and will take the fight to National’s Bill English.

Annette is committed to being Deputy Leader for a year, and Andrew Little has said that his intention is reshuffle the line-up at the end of next year for the team that will take the party to the election in 2017. In the meantime, newer MPs will have the opportunity to prove themselves.

Commenting on this balance, Andrew Little said in a press release, “Labour has many new and highly capable MPs who have will have the opportunity to prove their ability. At the same time our senior hands will be on deck to take the fight to the National-led Government and support our upcoming stars.” I think he’s absolutely right.

Whenever a shuffle is announced, there are always grumbles from folks who feel that their faction didn’t get enough “important” portfolios, or who feel that one sector or another isn’t well represented, or even that a given portfolio should be held by someone ranked more highly. But it’s impossible to please everyone, and some people will always grumble (even if it’s only for the sake of grumbling).

I noticed that all of the former Labour Leaders still in Parliament are included in the top 17: Little’s predecessor, David Cunliffe, is at Number 14, Cunliffe’s predecessor David Shearer is at Number 16 and Shearer’s predecessor, Phil Goff, is at Number 17. It’s good to see the former leaders and former deputy leaders working together in Caucus. It bodes well for the future.

This was the first opportunity for a re-shuffle since the September election; the party had only an Acting Leader for most of that time, and it’s the Leader who determines the rankings. Andrew Little will now focus on acting as a sort of “Chairman of the Board”, as he put it, travelling around the country supported by Annette King.

People often talk about the number of leaders that Labour has had in recent years, but they forget that since the first MMP election in 1996, the National Party has had five leaders, and Labour has had the exact same number—five. One of them, Helen Clark, was Leader for 16 years, nine of them as Prime Minister. Also, National’s worst election result was in 2002 when it won only 20% of the vote; Labour did better than that in 2014. All of which means that Labour’s recent past isn’t out of step with National, though I expect Labour to win in 2017, not almost win as National did in 2005.

All in all, I think it’s a good line-up. The pundits will be watching closely for signs of factionalism, so they’d all better do their jobs well. If any of them don’t, there’s always the re-shuffle next year.

The new ranking of Labour MPs:
  1. Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party, Security and Intelligence
  2. Annette King, Deputy Leader, Health
  3. Grant Robertson, Finance
  4. Nanaia Mahuta, Māori Development
  5. Phil Twyford, Housing, Transport, Associate Auckland Issues
  6. Chris Hipkins, Senior Whip, Shadow Leader of the House, Education
  7. Carmel Sepuloni, Junior Whip, Social Development
  8. Kelvin Davis, Police, Corrections, Domestic and Sexual Violence, Associate Regional Development, Associate Education (Māori)
  9. Jacinda Ardern, Justice, Children, Small Business, Arts & Culture
  10. David Clark, Economic Development, Associate Finance, Associate Health
  11. Su'a William Sio, Pacific Island Affairs, Local Government, Associate Housing (South Auckland), Interfaith Dialogue
  12. Iain Lees-Galloway, Labour
  13. Megan Woods, Environment, Climate Change
  14. David Cunliffe, Regional Development, Tertiary Education, Innovation, Research & Development, Science & Technology, Associate Economic Development
  15. David Parker, Shadow Attorney General, Treaty Negotiations, Trade & Export Growth
  16. David Shearer, Foreign Affairs, Consumer Affairs
  17. Phil Goff, Defence, Veterans’ Affairs, Disarmament, Auckland Issues, Ethnic Affairs

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