Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cabinet Shake-up?

Helen Bain has on the front page of the Sunday Star Times an article about Helen Clark's plans to dump underperforming ministers if she gets to form a third term cabinet. But by the second paragraph, it's revealed to be journalistic speculation about what she is expected to do as the "Sources close to Clark" are used only to support detail about a cabinet reshuffle last year.

Purportedly the Labour Caucus choses the cabinet but in practice, the party leader informs the caucus of what choices he or she will accept. The leader is constrained by the need to appease the factions, which is one of the reasons why George Hawkins has remained in cabinet for as long as he has.

Ministers in Cabinet

Michael Cullen has been Helen Clark's chief lieutenant since he was bought off after a leadership challenge in 1996. Although highly dependable, he has messed his record in a big way by refusing to announce significant tax cuts in this year's budget. Can he be replaced? Helen Bain thinks no but does suggest Trevor Mallard and Steve Maharey as possibles.

Jim Anderton has had a presence in Cabinet way beyond his parliamentary clout. Having only two MPs in the Jim Anderton's Personality Cult Progressive Coalition has somehow entitled him to a number three ranking in Cabinet when Peter Dunne, with eight MPs, only had a family commission. In this term with only himself to adore his genius, I'm dubious that he even merits a cabinet position.

Steve Maharey at number four while being a pillar of Helen's government has largely kept his nose clean by not being seen to be responsible for anything at all. This stems from the hillarious bruising that he received from Christine Rankin's employment tribunal hearing. But the cost of cleaniness is that he gets very little done.

Phil Goff, although number five, has been kept at arm's reach due to his ambition to be Prime Minister one day. When he answered questions in the House on behalf of the Prime Minister earlier this year, the event was significant enough to merit notice. A possible black mark in having dirtied his hands is unlikely to be seen as such in the Labour caucus although he has been defensive when asked about it in the House. Helen Bain reckons his position is safe. I expect him to take a more prominent role in Helen's next goverment to provide her with the needed whiff of fresh air - the only problem is what portfolio to give him that will also prevent him from making trouble.

Annette King has been stuck in Health for so long that the portfolio could do with a breath of fresh air. Yet the very reason why she remained in Health was that she was the only person Helen trusted to implement her policies. Hence I have a feeling she will continue to be mired in Health.

Jim Sutton is speculated in the article to be on the way out because he lost his electorate seat. If true, this would be unjust as the causes of his loss were Helen's speeding motorcade and Mallard's school closures.

Trevor Mallard is prominent as the Cabinet's hard man. Despite being tipped to remain, his record is tarnished by the twin fiascos of NCEA and Te Wanaga. I would be extremely surprised if Helen choses to retain him in the Education portfolio.

Peter Hodgson is also speculated to remain in Cabinet despite having bungled Kyoto. Which only illustrates the paucity of material that Helen has to refresh her Cabinet.

Parekura Horomia is tipped to retain Maori Affairs because he held his seat against the Maori party. Personally I would rather take a punt and hand the portfolio over to Pita Sharples of the Maori Party rather than leave it to list under this mediocrity.

George Hawkin's demotion has been widely tipped for some time and is long overdue.

Mark Burton is another almost certainty to remain. Since all he's done is play toy soldiers in this government so far, he is likely to be shifted to a more prominent role as another whiff of fresh air. The downside is that he didn't handle defense very well in the first term.

Paul Swain is tipped as a probable to be retained. Why he is not a safe is probably due to his department's bungling over Iraqi immigrants earlier this year. Since other ministers have committed similar or greater errors, I tend to see him as a certainty myself.

Marian Hobbs is also described as another probable. She bungled badly during her first term as Minister but has since matured somewhat. A plus in her favour is that she retained her electorate seat although that was largely due to her opponent's misfortunes rather than her personal talents. I don't consider her to be an effective minister but given Clark's low standards, that won't count against her.

Ruth Dyson looks set to be retained. The SST article doesn't mention her at all which is probably an oversight. The only blemish on her record is her drink-driving conviction which she has done penance for.

Chris Carter is described by the SST as another probable. Given that he hasn't done anything bad that I can recall, I'm inclined to upgrade his cabinet position to safe.

Rick Barker is tipped to be in doubt although why is not stated. Given that he did unusually poorly in his electorate seat, I suspect a skeleton in the closet that has not yet come to light.

David Benson-Pope is in limbo as a result of the tennis ball allegations. He had sufficent clout to be partially reinstated to Cabinet after the original allegations were raised. Yet he has not been cleared and if he were to be charged, the fallout would be damaging. This is likely to be a troublesome decision to make and I would evade the issue by choosing a smaller cabinet which wouldn't have any room for David.

Ministers outside Cabinet

Judith Tizard, the first minister outside cabinet, hasn't done much to warrant promotion despite serving two terms. I suspect her portfolio is pure patronage to keep her happy.

Dover Samuels is likely to be dismissed from his associate ministerial portfolios because he didn't retain his Maori seat in this election. His time on the backbenches is likely to be less troublesome than his brief stay during Labour's first term.

Damien O'Connor is tipped as safe but he isn't in Cabinet yet. He was widely tipped to get the last cabinet opening but was pipped by David Benson-Pope. If there is room, I expect Damien to be promoted into Cabinet.

Harry Duynhoven is another minister whose position is in doubt. He's always been on the outer in this government despite having been in parliament since 1987. I presume the hard times in patronage would give Helen an excuse to axe his portfolios.

Taito Phillip Field is under a cloud due to a scandal about his conduct that blew up in the last week of the election campaign and potentially tarnished other ministers. He is unlikely to retain his ministerial portfolios as a result.

David Cunliffe is also likely to be axed simply because a) he is in the wrong faction and b) is unpopular. On the other hand, he could be elevated into Cabinet on the grounds of needed fresh air and competence.

Mita Ririnui: Who? Likely to be axed due to diminished importance as he lost his seat to the Maori Party in this year's elections.

Possible New Ministers

Lianne Dalziel: a competent minister who was sacked because she lied to the media. She's likely to come back into cabinet after having done her penance but seems not to have learned her lesson.

Clayton Cosgrove: Experienced Labour MP with rare business experience. Unlikely to elevated due to being a cupid stunt when Helen became Labour party leader.

Winnie Laban: likely to be elevated to handle the Pacific Island Affairs portfolio simply because Taito Field looks like a goner.

Darren Hughes: likely to be elevated to handle the Youth affairs portfolio because he is the only MP under 30.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Election Results

Since I had the planet between me and the action, I refrained from commenting during the last forthnight of the election campaign. The skeletons that I expected to see during the last two weeks of the campaign did not appear (although I see that David Benson-Pope has just been interviewed by the Police) while a story about apparent corruption by Taito Field failed to have much traction. Hence the collapse in Labour's support that I had anticipated failed to materialize and so we have a situation in which forming a government is harder than it was in 1996.

However in June, I made a set of predictions as to which general electoral seats would change hands between National and Labour. This was based on an interpolated 12% swing to National while Labour's share of the vote remained static. This was based on poll results at the time but they mirror the election result so it's worth comparing the two.

For the seats of Invercargill, Napier, Northcote, Otago and Whanganui, my predictions of National Gains came true.

Banks Peninsula: Despite my prediction, Ruth Dyson retained her seat with a halved majority. The Press (probably Colin Espiner) suggests David Carter lost because of the "shit country" controversy although I understand he denies having said that.

Hamilton East: My figures predicted a National Gain and National did gain the seat. However when composing the blog post, I got confused between Hamilton West (which was narrowly retained) and Hamilton East and so botched this prediction.

Wellington Central: This seat defied my predictions although that seems largely due to Mark Blumsky's stairwell misfortune.
Seats which I didn't predict to change hands were:
Aoraki: The chief cause was the motorcade incident although Mallard's school purges also contributed.

East Coast: The rise in National support meant this seat was vulnerable but the retirement of the old Labour incumberant shifted it into National's hands.

Tukituki: I was wrongfooted by this as I had expected Rick Barker's support to hold up. On Tuesday night, Rick blamed his defeat on the rising National support which is almost certainly wrong because if the Labour share of the vote remained static (as it did elsewhere), he would have retained his seat. But what had happened was that Rick Barker suffered a 16% collapse in support which also ate away into Labour's share of the party vote. Normally a scandal would be the cause butt I'm unaware of anything that Rick Barker said or did to cause such an erosion of support.

Wairarapa: I failed to predict this primarily because there was a significant third party vote in 2002 (for Merepeka Raukawa-Tait of Christian Heritage) that largely reverted to National in 2005. Also significant was that Georgina Beyer had decided to become a List MP for this election.
I didn't predict the Tauranga or the Maori seats because those were not Labour/National contests.

I'm finally back.... Snow?!?

Finally made it home after the usual trauma of cattle-class globe-trotting with a few accompanying misfortunes thrown in.

The first woe was that at Seoul, my flight to Sydney had to change planes because the original plane had something wrong. This wouldn't be so bad but I left Seoul over two hours late, which meant that a scheduled three hour stay in Sydney was cut to less than an hour. This would be barely enough time to dash to the transfer desk to get a new boarding pass and then dash to the gate.

Unfortunately the plane was late in arriving in Sydney and I only had twenty minutes to spare. So when I made it to the transfer desk, I was told that it was too late to issue a boarding pass. Having missed my connection, I had to wait for a later flight. Thus far the second woe.

The third woe was discovering why my travel agent had scheduled so little time for me in the Sydney international airport in the first place - it's a hole. Well, in parts anyway. The duty-free shops were all nice and dandy and the bookshop was good. But the things that mattered most to a jet-lagged traveller who had already spent the past day on airplanes were poor. The shower facilities were crude consisting of little more than a faucet and a drain in the ground. The main cafe was substandard with a layout that only created lengthy soviet-era waiting queues for overpriced food. Internet facilities were similarly deficient with only three free terminals of which two had to be used standing up while the seat for the third meant that you had to crane your neck upwards.

It was while browsing these terminals, I found that a snowstorm had struck Christchurch. This has never happened before in September. And so it came to pass that when I was on the next available flight into Christchurch, I spent my time looking out the window awe-struck at the snow-covered spectacle. The fourth woe was that I had dressed expecting mild spring weather, not the aftermath of a snowstorm. Fortunately I had a jersey packed in my hand-luggage.

I was even more fortunate that I packed the jersey in my hand-luggage because the checked-in luggage failed to arrive at Christchurch, a consequence of the missed connection in Sydney. Air New Zealand re-united me with the luggage the next morning so there was no harm done but re-adjusting to an Indian Winter after the subtropical balm of London is going to take a lot longer.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Musings on the election

I'm leaving tomorrow night for a family reunion in London and won't be back until the day after the election. Because of this, I won't be able to comment effectively on the final week and a half of the election campaign. So I'll just take the opportunity to muse a bit.

Of the five polls taken over the past week, four show National in the lead with the mean lead being 3%. What should be worrying for Labour in the latest poll is not that National is polling highly but that Labour's support has reverted to where it was before the announcement of the student loans and family benefit policy. In other words, the short term fillip resulting from their electoral enticements has evapourated.

So what can Labour do? A negative campaign looks plausible but is unlikely to work wonders. There is the Corngate row which did take 14% from Labour's support in 2002. But that had its origins in credible allegations of government malfeasance that could not be easily refuted. But National is not in the government and so Labour has been reduced to pointing out that Don Brash receives emails from the ACT party and the Business Round Table! I remain unimpressed.

The trouble with the negative campaign is that Labour has skeletons in its closet.
The Doonegate transcripts have yet to be released. The police have yet to decide upon charges against David Benson-Pope. There are questions about Transpower that have yet to be satisfactorily addressed. And lastly the Wanaga could explode. Any one of these issues released at the right time could do serious damage to the government's credibility.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Banks Peninsula Candidates

The Candidates for the Banks Pennisula electorate are:
Carter, David (National)
Clearwater, Phil (Jim Anderton's Progressive)
Donald, Rod (Green)
Dyson, Ruth (Labour)
Loomes, Robin (United Future)
McKenzie, Andrew (Alliance)
Mann, Alex (ACT)
Ruth Dyson won this seat in 2002 with a majority of 4,057 votes. On the basis of calculations back in June (which assumed a 12% swing towards National while Labour's share of the vote remained static), I predicted that Ruth would lose this seat to David Carter. Since most polls in the campaign have National and Labour polling in the 40-45% region, the prediction is still valid and continues to remain so barring a drastic collapse in National's support.

David Carter, the National Candidate, won Banks Peninsula in 1996. However due to the incorporation of the Labour stronghold of Lyttelton into the electorate, he lost it in 1999 and 2002 to Ruth Dyson. Despite these consecutive losses, David has remained in Parliament as a list MP. As I've mentioned above, I expect David to win the seat in the coming election.

Phil Clearwater, the Progressive candidate, is a local government figure of some importance. He is the head of the Spreydon-Heathcote Community Board having won 8,728 votes last year, which is an improvement of 3,014 votes over his 2001 total. However the community boards were enlarged in 2004 so that Phil was actually picking up votes from outside his old ward and hence the apparent improvement is misleading. In 2002, Phil stood as candidate for Banks Peninsula but only gained 646 electorate votes while his party received 952 party votes. Given the terminal condition of the Progressive Party and Phil's local prominence, I expect Phil to receive more candidate votes than his party receives in Party votes.

Rod Donald, the Green Candidate, is co-leader of the Green Party. In actual fact, he's number two but the Greens don't like the idea of a sole leader and so Jeanette deigns to be seen to be equal with Rod. He is popular in the electorate having gained more electorate votes than the Greens received in party votes during the last two elections. His share of the vote is likely to be static in this election as the Greens are roughly at the same place as they were in the 2002 election. He has been a sitting MP by virtue of party lists ever since 1996. There is a real chance that he may not be returned as an MP in the coming election (due to the Greens failing to win a seat and faoling to win more than 5% of the vote) but the odds are that he will.

Ruth Dyson is a minister of some importance. Due to her performance as Labour Party President, Robert Muldoon respectfully described her as someone to be feared. As Minister, she has only earned two blemishes on her record. The first was a drink-driving conviction that saw her lose her ministerial portfolios for six months. The second is when she called Katherine Rich an "irresponsible tart" during a select committee hearing. Even though I predict her to lose her seat, she is highly placed on the party list to be returned as a List MP.

Robin Loomes is standing for United Future. His resume is fairly respectable but he omits to mention that he's a mason. United Future gained 2,717 party votes in 2002 while its candidate gained less than half that. I expect the 2005 share of the vote to be well down.

Andrew McKenzie is the Alliance candidate. He has some importance within the party as their spokesman on Justice and the Public Sector as well as their general secretary. There's little else that I can find about him as his name is sufficiently common to drown out google searches. In 2002, the Alliance gained less than 500 part votes and its candidate gained just over half that. I expect their share of the vote to be static at best.

Alex Mann is standing for ACT. I can't find anything to add to his profile. In 2002, ACT gained 2,744 party votes while its candidate only received 834 votes. Since most of ACT's party votes were from National voters splitting their vote and that they are unlikely to do so this time around, I expect ACT's share of the vote to decrease radically.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Waimak candidates

The candidates for the Waimakariri electorate are:
Britnell, Michael Allan (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis)
Cosgrove, Clayton (Labour)
Holdaway, Rebekah (ACT)
Liefting, Alan (Green)
Mark, Ron (New Zealand First)
Orme, Jason (Direct Democracy)
Pickering, John (United Future)
Wilkinson, Kate (National)
Wright, John Alexander (Jim Anderton's Progressive)
The seat was held in 2002 by Clayton Cosgrove with a majority of 10,536 votes. Clayton remains the favourite to win the seat in the coming election.

Michael Allan Britnell runs once again for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis party, although he's shifted from the Christchurch East electorate. Although he's mentioned a few times on the web, I can't turn up anything significant about him, not even a photo.

Clayton Cosgrove, the sitting Labour MP, has held this seat since 1999 when he succeeded Mike Moore. Although capable as an organizer and having some business experience, he is on the fringes of the Labour Caucus. The reason for this is that when Mike Moore was deposed as leader of the Labour Party in 1993, Clayton used his organizational talents to run an attack campaign against Helen Clark and her supporters. The memories of this has stymied his parliament career to the extent that he is one of the few second term Labour MPs who doesn't have a executive portfolio of some sort. He also blotted his copy book by trying to dump his secretary after she started going out with Craig McNair, a NZ First MP - the row made the papers and peace was made by promoting the secretary to a minister's office. Despite such errors of judgement and personality defects, Clayton remains popular in Waimakariri - he won 3000 more electorate votes than party votes in 2002.

Rebekah Holdaway is standing for ACT. ACT won 1,771 party votes in 2002 while its candidate won 475 electorate votes. I don't expect ACT to do so well this time.

Alan Liefting stands for the Greens. I know him primarily through his postings on nz.politics and nz.general and he comes across as milder than some of the other people of similar orientation that post there. His most recent act was to protest at a meeting of the Destiny Church in the Christchurch Town Hall under the impression that it was a public meeting. Bishop Tamaki's bouncers solidly disabused him of that error by physically evicting him. The Greens gained 1,628 party votes in 2002 while their candidate gained 952 votes. Alan should recieve similar votes this time around.

Ron Mark is standing for NZ First, having been a list MP since 1996. He is the only NZ First MP that I think is any good. For a long time, he was Mike Moore's annoited successor to his seat but Ron quit the Labour party for NZ First after Helen desposed Mike. When Mike was seething in the wilderness after his deposition, Ron was trying his hardest to entice Mike into jumping ship for NZ First. Ron's popularity in the electorate can be seen in the fact that he gained 5,615 electorate votes while NZ First only received 3,834 party votes in 2002. As he is number 4 on the party list, Ron is most likely to be returned to parliament on the strength of the NZ First vote. However due to Winston's poor performance, there is a good chance that NZ First may not be returned to Parliament.

Jason Orme is standing for Direct Democracy. The only thing I could find googling was that there was a local drummer of the same name but the drummer doesn't look like the candidate in the only picture that I could find. From the looks of the candidate, my guess is that he's an associate of Kyle Chapman's.

John Pickering stands for United Future. He works at ie limited being some sort of development agency for internation students. He even has a blog limited but he's suspended that in favour of a politcal blog for the campaign. United Future gained 2,379 party votes in 2002 while its candidate won 802 electorate votes. I expect the votes to be much lower in 2005 due to United Future's poor polling.

Kate Wilkinson is standing for the National Party. National won 7,593 party votes in 2002 while its candidate won only 7,035. This lop-sided result runs counter to the trend that National voters split their vote and is probably due party votes being cast by Ron Mark or Clayton Cosgrove. I expect National to improve its performance but not to the extent of unseating Clayton Cosgrove. Kate is no. 38 on the party list and thus likely to be selected as a list MP.

John Wright is standing for Jim's Progressives. He was originally in the Social Credit/Democratic party and was instrumental in persuading it to join forces with New Labour, the Greens, the Liberals and Mana Motuhake to form the Alliance. Under the Alliance banner, John became an MP from 1996 to 2002. When Jim Anderton split the Alliance, John Wright having abandoned Social Credit could only follow Jim. Jim's Party received 721 party votes in 2002 and John Wright received only 583. John's share of the vote is likely to be even lower in this election.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Rakaia Candidates

The candidates for the Rakaia electorate are:
Barr, Graeme (United Future)
Connell, Brian (National)
Davidson, Brian (ACT)
Main, Philippa (Jim Anderton's Progressive)
Mathers, Mojo (Green)
Milne, Tony (Labour)
Currently the seat is held by Brian Connell with a majority of 6,076 votes, having succeeded Jenny Shipley at the last election.

Graeme Barr is standing once again for United Future. In 2002, he gained a respectable 1,832 electorate votes while his party gained 2,319 party votes. I don't expect the party to do so well this time but I don't know much about the candidate to make firm predictions about him. What I do find fascinating is his email address - having a domain name of (whom I didn't know were still around) is like having a horse-drawn chariot for personal transport in this day and age.

Brian Connell, the sitting National MP, is likely to be returned to power. He does have a reputation as a maverick as when he gained the National candidacy in 2002, there were dark mutterings among the Nats that spilled over into the NBR. He is a good organizer as during the last election, his election billboards were up weeks before the National Party billboards were) and he's kept his head down with only a single comment about throwing cats to his discredit (the more recent ruckus about the forestry policy remains a cockup that could happen to anybody until further evidence comes to light). I expect him to retain or improve upon the 15,870 votes that he gained in 2002 while National should gain significantly more than 10,926 party votes it had received.

Brian Davidson is seemingly another stealth candidate yet his picture can be found here and he's described in the Ashburton Guardian as:
Mr Davidson, a prominent Ashburton businessman who recently sold his financial services business here, is venturing into national politics for the first time after lengthy stints on the Ashburton Licensing Trust and as President of the Ashburton Aquatic Park.

He is seeking a change of government in the forthcoming election and, believing that National will never again govern alone under the MMP system, is encouraging voters to give their party vote to ACT to ensure the party returns to Parliament.
ACT gained 2,525 party votes and 898 electorate votes in 2002, which is a large disparity but similar to their record in 1999 (2417 party votes and 535 electorate votes). I expect ACT's party vote to decrease significantly in this election while I remain less than certain about the candidate vote.

Phillipa Main is a Rolleston denizen that is studying for a law degree (according to the Ashburton Guardian). Her profile is more believable than that of Karen Silcock's with only the following sentence "With Jim Anderton’s determination we have achieved the lowest unemployment in the western world" betraying any sense of a personality cult.

Mojo Mathers, the Green Candidate, is a forestry management services provider. Her profile indicates her great concern about sustainable use of the land, which in Rakaia means that she's fed up with the cowpats from the dairy farms all over the place. An interesting note in her profile is that she says she has good relations with the Waitahi, which probably means that she spits everytime somebody says "Ngai Tahu" in her presence.

Lastly Tony Milne stands once again for Labour, having stood previously in 2002 where he gained 9,838 party votes and 9,794 electorate votes. His main handicap is his extreme youth; he was only 20 in 2002 and his life experience since then has been university and working as Tim Barnett's executive assistant. I expect his share of the vote to remain stable or to decrease in this coming election.