National’s list leaves slot open
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.
Several polls show Labour deputy Jacinda Ardern is still preferred as prime minister over leader Andrew Little.