Sunday, May 21, 2006

Purgewatch: Sunday Star Times goes stirring

The Sunday Star Times had a front page article about Helen Clark wanting to purge the ranks of old labour for fresh blood. The only named source in the article is one Mark Blackham, who once worked in the Prime Minister's staff but now works in some consultancy. I get the impression this was the result of a liquid lunch in which he agreed to have his speculations printed for the record rather than being an authorized tip from the ninth floor.

Let's see to what he says:
Mark Blackham [...] said he understood MPs Russell Fairbrother, Dianne Yates and Jim Sutton would be gone by the end of the year.
He picked Jill Pettis and Ann Hartley as further candidates for the chop.
Gee whiz. These names were widely bandied about in the Herald, the Press and even this blog. If this was truly a tip from Helen Clark, one would have supposed that instead of dropping hints, she start wielding the hatchet. Jim Sutton, for example, was supposed to have resigned his Cabinet posting at the end of last year and he is still there.

What's interesting in this article are the denials. Dover Samuels:
Associate Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels is widely believed to be in firing line, but he denied it, saying: "It's the first time I've heard of that... I'm here till 2008."
If it's the first time Dover's heard of that, what did he think was going on when Helen offered to make him the new High Commissioner to Niue? Or for Russell Fairbrother:
But Fairbrother [...] said [he] had no intention of resigning and had not been asked to do so.


Fairbrother accepted people might point the finger because "I'm 61 and I lost Napier".
Not to mention being passed over for a cabinet posting in favour of somebody who was later found to have dubious business ethics. But this supposes that Helen Clark would ask people outright for their resignations when she actually hasn't the authority to do so. What really would have been interesting if he had had discussions with Helen about the possibility of taking up some appointment elsewhere.