The month is up, and the Spinoff Politics power rankings are in. Organised arbitrarily into five gaining power and five going the other way, the completely scientific cookie crumbles like this…
1. James Shaw / Gareth Hughes
After a positive and non-partisan campaign for the Red Peak flag to be added to the plainly unsatisfactory shortlist, the politicians got hold of the issue and it quickly became a political football in which MPs attempted to snooker each other in a game of table tennis / chess / cockfighting. The Greens, with a bill from Gareth Hughes and promoted by new co-leader James Shaw, played a brilliant political gambit or just did something sensible – possibly both – and found a way to get the omitted design on the ballot. Best of all, it generated a clutch of Social Media Machiavellis to explain how The Triumph of PEAK Had Been John Key’s Evil Plan All Along.
2. Shane Jones
“Shane Jones?” I hear you wonder aloud. “Haven’t heard a peep out of him for some time. Did he seal the deal on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, did he?” No he did not, and indeed he has been quiet. The reason he has grown more powerful through September, however, is the abject performance of the rest of New Zealand First while their leader was away in the UK, performing the crucial role of media liaison for the NZ parliamentarian rugby side (yes he was). Deputy Ron Mark, who recently replaced Tracey Martin, failed to fire, while the others – well, the less said the better. The point being this: it is increasingly clear that when Winston finally does depart NZ First, the party needs a Shane-ocopter to land into the leadership fairly swiftly, or they’re finished.
3. Sue Moroney
The Labour MP saw her private member’s bill, which would extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, pulled from the ballot for a second time, and achieved enough support in the house to get it past its first reading. A parade of government MPs were forced to stand in the chamber and say what a jolly good idea it was, if only it was affordable. A likely government veto awaits, but Moroney has proved able in collecting support beyond the National benches.
4. Judith Collins
The former Justice Minister was considered one of the likeliest successors to John Key before she was dropped like a stone in the election campaign after emails related to the Dirty Politics scandal appeared. She’s been carefully working her way back into public view, with regular TV, radio and print appearances.
In a contribution to The Spinoff roundup of views on the Corbyn effect, she pointedly said, “No matter how deluded and economically illiterate Jeremy Corbyn might seem to any centre-right voter, at least he stands for something… At its best, politics is the contest of ideas. It shouldn’t be about playing the game. It shouldn’t be about doing anything to win. It’s only by galvanising the base, by giving people a reason to care, that those more centrist will give the party a chance.” Collins elaborated in her Sunday Star Times column last week, and many have detected in her words a renewed appetite for leadership. Collins has been careful enough to simultaneously praise John Key, and cannot be accused of disloyalty.
Should a Cabinet role become available in coming months, Key would have to think seriously about promoting Collins, given an inquiry found no evidence she had behaved improperly over the Hotchin-SFO allegations. Were Key to overlook her, who knows what she might do.
5. Giant pandas
According to high-level sources, unnamed putative immigrant panda bears now wield greater influence on the ninth floor of the Beehive than the Wellington mayor and most backbench MPs. Here’s Gerry Brownlee in a Chinese airport lounge having completed his clandestine panda diplomacy:
1. Murray McCully
He should be enjoying positive headlines while over with the boss in New York for the UN General Assembly, but instead the foreign minister cuts a feeble figure in responding to the news that hundreds of New Zealanders are being held in Australian-run detention centres. He’s since met his counterpart Julie Bishop in New York, but that was only after John Key had unhelpfully suggested that we needn’t worry, Murray was on it – he’d sent her a text.
2. Len Brown
Like The Little Engine That Could, the Mayor of Auckland keeps on pouring his heart into the job, but it’s pretty hard to find anyone who really thinks he can win the chains back next year. That task is becoming all the more difficult with Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff – as part of what Guyon Espiner last week called “the longest striptease in political history” – inching ever closer to the pretty much inevitable confirmation that he wants to be Super City supremo. Brown, who can reasonably argue he is as much sinned against as sinner, has found it impossible to recover from the infidelity scandal of 2013.
Another shitty month for the trade minister. Some reckon he’s playing dumb and putting on a miserable voice when he concedes that the TPP dairy concessions on offer is woefully inadequate, that a deal is done, and he can glide into Atlanta and the last-gasp negotiations to agree a text that will please at least the farmers at home. And maybe he can pull a rabbit from a milky hat – that would hardly mollify opponents, but it would nevertheless restore a reputation under some strain.
4. Denis O’Rourke
Unfair to place O’Rourke on this list, perhaps, if only because you need to have some power before you can lose it, but the NZ First MP’s diatribe against Red Peak really was something else. As Newsworthy’s silver-tongued Hayden Donnell put it, O’Rourke is “one of the angry Stuff commenters randomly selected to stand beside Winston Peters in the Beehive for a full Parliamentary term”. Makes Aaron Gilmore appear a formidable politician.
Completely overlooked as iconography for the New Zealand flag and roundly mocked as a worthy swap for pandas in the great diplomatic push for bearish acquisition. Not yet junk bond status, but the political clout of our beloved, flightless, nocturnal, pathetic little taonga has not sunk so low for a long time.