Na­tional’s list leaves slot open

The Press - - Front Page - TRACY WATKINS

There are few sur­prises in Na­tional’s new rank­ings for the 2017 elec­tion – but there have been some big moves as some MPs fall in and out of favour and there is one gap­ing hole.

The lat­est list largely re­flects the big changes in Na­tional’s top bench af­ter the shock res­ig­na­tion of for­mer prime min­is­ter John Key, rank­ing his suc­ces­sor Bill English in the No 1 slot and mov­ing Paula Ben­nett to No 2 as his deputy.

Speaker David Carter takes third spot while Steven Joyce is also bumped up to re­flect his new role as fi­nance min­is­ter.

There is one spot that is yet to be filled, how­ever – the Clutha South­land elec­torate still has to se­lect a can­di­date to re­place out­go­ing MP Todd Bar­clay, who was forced to step down at the com­ing elec­tion over a scan­dal in­volv­ing his elec­torate of­fice.

Dunedin-based can­di­date Hamish Walker is the Welling­ton favourite for the job but the elec­torate has pre­vi­ously bucked out­side in­flu­ence by se­lect­ing Bar­clay over a can­di­date favoured by the party hi­er­ar­chy.

Other big moves mostly re­flect the de­par­ture of some big names in the line-up, in­clud­ing for­mer for­eign min­is­ter Mur­ray McCully, for­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Hekia Parata and some mi­nor port­fo­lio min­is­ters in­clud­ing for­mer corrections min­is­ter Sam Lotu-Iiga and for­mer com­merce min­is­ter Craig Foss.

But for­mer high­flier Ju­dith Collins has been bumped 10 spots down the list com­pared with 2014, drop­ping form sixth to 16th place, af­ter a short pe­riod on the back benches as col­lat­eral dam­age from the dirty pol­i­tics scan­dal.

Be­lea­guered Nel­son MP Nick Smith re­tains his high list rank­ing, how­ever, de­spite a mood in some quar­ters of the party that he should move on.

Labour is bleed­ing in a new poll, but a con­tro­ver­sial ad­mis­sion of ben­e­fit fraud by co-leader Me­tiria Turei has given the Greens a mas­sive boost.

Labour leader An­drew Lit­tle ad­mit­ted fol­low­ing the shock 1 News-Col­mar Brun­ton poll he had con­sulted his col­leagues on whether to step aside over the party’s poor polling but said they urged him to stay in the fight.

But the re­sults put huge pres­sure on Lit­tle and Labour af­ter they showed the party plung­ing to a de­mor­al­is­ing 24 per cent - the low­est re­sult in more than 20 years.

Mean­while, the Greens have soared to their high­est re­sult ever in the 1 News-Col­mar Brun­ton Poll, at 15 per cent.

NZ First is steady at 11 per cent and the Op­por­tu­ni­ties Party is on 2 per cent.

On those num­bers, Lit­tle is on the cusp of miss­ing out on his seat in Par­lia­ment, and that could cause an un­prece­dented cri­sis for the party post-elec­tion.

The poll puts Na­tional on 47 per cent, hold­ing steady on its 2014 re­sult though the poor polling of its po­ten­tial coali­tion al­lies mean it would prob­a­bly be re­liant on NZ First to form a gov­ern­ment.

Lit­tle con­ceded that the re­sult put pres­sure on his own lead­er­ship just eight weeks out from the elec­tion. And he told TVNZ he had con­sid­ered fall­ing on his sword.

‘‘I’d be ly­ing to you if I said I hadn’t thought about that. In fact I spoke to se­nior col­leagues about that.’’

They had re­jected that op­tion, Lit­tle said.

‘‘My col­leagues said we’re in this fight to­gether. This is all of us. This is the Labour Party. And it’s what the Labour Party rep­re­sents. They said we want you in the fight.’’

Lit­tle is not stand­ing in an elec­torate seat this elec­tion, opt­ing to put his name for­ward for the party list only. On tonight’s re­sult, he would only just scrape back into Par­lia­ment and any more bleed­ing would see him out al­to­gether.

That forces the spot­light on Labour deputy Jacinda Ardern, who holds the safe Mt Al­bert seat and who out­ranks Lit­tle in some polls as pre­ferred prime min­is­ter.

There has been spec­u­la­tion about in­stalling Ardern as leader be­fore the elec­tion – and while she has pub­licly backed Lit­tle, Labour’s rules would al­low it.

Labour’s bleed­ing has prof­ited the Greens – the poll is a huge boost to the mi­nor party af­ter its cal­cu­lated risk over co-leader Me­tiria Turei’s ad­mis­sion that she ripped off the DPB when rais­ing her daugh­ter on her own.

The ad­mis­sion has po­larised pub­lic opin­ion but ap­pears to have en­er­gised left wing vot­ers, with the poll sug­gest­ing it has caused a de­fec­tion of Labour vot­ers to its mi­nor party ally.

Na­tional is un­scathed from the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing its Clutha South­land MP Todd Bar­clay, who was forced to step down over an elec­torate of­fice scan­dal.

PHOTO: STUFF

Sev­eral polls show Labour deputy Jacinda Ardern is still pre­ferred as prime min­is­ter over leader An­drew Lit­tle.

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