"This line-up is not electorally palatable to voters looking for a credible alternative government. A shame, since the current incumbents have only achieved a C grade overall. (D for education)"Featured comment
Even the prime minister has conceded the next election will go to the wire.
Speaking on RadioLIVE this morning, John Key said he expected National and Labour/Green to win roughly the same share of the vote at the next election, which would be “a very, very tight race”.
Mr Key may be overstating his chances. He won in 2011 by fewer than 10,000 votes and a single seat and the odds of him holding on to all of his vote in 2014 are surely low.
That makes today’s announcement by David Shearer of Labour’s so-called shadow cabinet particularly significant.
Resembling Mr Key’s cabinet reshuffle, Mr Shearer’s effort has its bold aspects.
Like Charles Chauvel before them, Trevor Mallard, Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson and David Cunliffe have effectively all been told by Mr Shearer that there is no place for them in a cabinet he leads.
The call seems somewhat unfair on Ms Dalziel, who has done a good job putting pressure on Gerry Brownlee in Christchurch, but the divisive Mr Mallard’s head had to be put on a pike to balance the inevitable decision that Mr Cunliffe could not be trusted to be returned to a genuinely senior role.
Ms Dyson is a has-been, having been president of the Labour Party as far back as 1988 and amounting to little ever since.
Parekura Horomia and Ross Robertson have again been delivered pink slips but will probably again refuse to read them.
Winners include Annette King, who returns to the front bench and the health portfolio she held as minister from 1999-2005. Her experience as employment minister in the 1980s will also be useful as Labour continues to make jobs a major issue.
Chris Hipkins, at just 34, is being given a big but deserved break in taking on the education portfolio against the struggling Hekia Parata.
The biggest winner, though, is the Rev Dr David Clark. The Dunedin North MP, and leading world authority on Christian existentialism, is now the party’s economic development guru, up against Steven Joyce.
If Shane Jones survives the forthcoming auditor-general’s report into the Bill Liu affair, he will take on regional development.
A critic could point out that Mr Shearer’s shadow cabinet continues to carry under-performers. Failed health spokeswoman Maryan Street and failed education spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta remain in the Top 20, albeit with diminished roles.
It is difficult to know quite what Sue Moroney, Su’a William Sio and Megan Woods offer.
The answer is that Mr Shearer’s Top 20 needs to include some cannon fodder to make space for the Greens.
It is difficult to imagine the Greens getting less than a third of Labour’s vote and the far-left party has no intention of being taken for granted. It will demand – and would have a right to expect – five of the 20 seats in cabinet.
Of those making the Top 20 in today’s announcement, Ms Street, Ms Mahuta, Ms Moroney, Mr Sio and Ms Woods would be most likely to miss out.
For the Greens, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei and the highly regarded Kevin Hague would be dead-certs.
At just 31, Gareth Hughes has also earned a place in the Greens top five and would make a far more credible youth affairs minister than Labour’s Ms Mahuta, who will be 43 by the time of the next election.
Party activists are likely to want to see Mojo Mathers become New Zealand’s first deaf cabinet minister, to take a lead role on disability issues.
The shape of a Labour/Green cabinet is therefore becoming clearer. My best estimate, as of today, is as follows:
1. David Shearer: Prime Minister, SIS, Science
2. Russel Norman (Green): Deputy Prime Minister, Economic Development, Environment
3. Grant Robertson: Tertiary Education, Employment, Arts, Leader of the House
4. David Parker: Finance, Attorney-General, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
5. Jacinda Ardern: Social Development, Children, Early Childhood Education
6. Metiria Turei (Green): Maori Development, Women’s Affairs, Conservation
7. Clayton Cosgrove: Canterbury Earthquake Authority, Police, Corrections
8. Annette King: Health
9. Shane Jones: Regional Development, Local Government, Forestry, Fisheries, Racing
10. Phil Twyford: Housing, Transport, Auckland Issues
11. Kevin Hague (Green): ACC
12. Chris Hipkins: Education
13. David Clark: SOEs, Commerce, Revenue, Small Business, Inter-Faith Dialogue
14. Phil Goff: Foreign Affairs, Defence, State Services, Pacific Island Affairs
15. Darien Fenton: Labour, Immigration, Internal Affairs
16. Gareth Hughes (Green): Climate Change, Youth Affairs, Sport, Civil Defence
17. Damien O’Connor: Primary Industries, Energy & Resources
18. Clare Curran: Communications, Broadcasting
19. Andrew Little: Justice, Tourism, Building & Construction
20. Mojo Mathers (Green): Disability Issues, Disarmament, Food Safety, Customs
There are plenty of new people here that the business community will need to know.