PoliticsDecember 8, 2015

Politics: 2015 in Review – 23 Politics Watchers Name the Year’s Big Losers


A pantheon of New Zealand politics watchers were asked to cast their minds over 2015, select their champs and their flops, their ups and their downs, and the story to look out for in 2016. Today, Part Two: The Flops.

We asked our experts to rank the three worst performing individuals in politics for 2015. Below, read the breakdown of votes and adjudicators’ comments. But first, the big flops, based on assigning three points for the worst performer, two for second worst and one for – well, you get it …

The Political Flops, 2015

And the floppiest of the lot: Murray McCully, a foreign minister who very likely dreams of Saudi sheep and Malaysian diplomats.


See also: The Champs – the Political Stars of 2015, according to our 23 experts

The Scorecards

Michelle Boag

1 Len Brown

2 David Cunliffe: Deservedly demoted.

3 Metiria Turei: Lost in action since Shaw became co-leader.

Michelle Boag is a former National Party President and PR practitioner

Don Brash

Too many contenders for these positions to rank!

Don Brash is a former leader of the National and ACT parties

Jennifer Curtin

1 John Key: Yes the polls show that the average New Zealander thinks he is doing a great job, and lots of people like him, including President Obama, John Oliver, and my local supermarket operations manager. And the mainstream media is often kind to him. But this year it appears he has allowed his government to do secret deals, while his own inappropriate behaviour, inadequate apologies and a lack of leadership on behalf of the have-nots, suggests an unhealthy ambivalence about the role of a PM.

2 David Carter: As Speaker of the House he does not fill the New Zealand public with confidence that he is ensuring ministers are taking their accountability to parliament seriously

3 Phil Twyford: For his decision to play wedge politics with race and housing.

Jennifer Curtin is an Associate Professor in Politics at the University of Auckland

Shamubeel Eaqub

1 Murray McCully: Saudi sheepgate.

2 Gerry Brownlee: Canterbury.

3 David Carter: Woeful performance as speaker, just embarrassing. Post him somewhere already as an ambassador where accurate hearing is not necessary.

Shamubeel Eaqub is an economist

Graeme Edgeler

1 Bashar al-Assad: President of Syria and war criminal.

2 Mike Sabin: Ran for re-election in Northland in 2014. Shouldn’t have. Resigned in January, forcing a byelection, and handed Winston Peters and Peter Dunne a platform to partially derail the government’s agenda, and allowing the opposition to successfully advance member’s bills, like Sue Moroney’s extension to paid parental leave, and David Parker’s bill to extend to minimum wage to contractors.

3 Nicola Young: In an effort to raise her profile for next year’s local election, the Wellington city councillor tried to create a grass-roots campaign to protect the commemorative traffic lights with the silhouette of Kate Sheppard. The lights were not under threat, and the campaign seems to have had more effect as an effort to create a mailing list for a possible mayoral campaign.

Graeme Edgeler is a lawyer and Public Address blogger

Bryce Edwards

1 Mike Sabin

2 The New Zealand Police

3 Mark Weldon

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago

Marianne Elliott

1 David Carter

2 Gerry Brownlee

3 Mike Sabin

Marianne Elliott is National Director for ActionStation

Morgan Godfery

1 Sam Lotu-Iiga: “Serco Sam”, enough said.

2 Michael Woodhouse: The guy who promised to outlaw zero hour contracts and then delivered a Bill to entrench them. Oh, and “wormgate”.

3 Judith Collins: Despite a late return to Cabinet, she was reduced in 2015 to sponsoring car dealerships.

Morgan Godfery is a writer and activist

Laila Harré

1 David Carter: For total dereliction of standard setting in allowing the PM to insult the House repeatedly and getting NZ into world media as the country that ejects women MPs for sharing their experience of sexual assault. A disgrace. Surely this will be a topic over the summer for National’s support parties.

2 John Key: For offences against women. I found the ponytail story chilling. Women can get all mixed up around men with power and money. When such men are also public servants (like the PM or the Mayor of Auckland) they carry an extra duty of care and respect for folk. I never bought the innocent misunderstanding line. Key is intensely aware of his power, including, I’d bet, his ability to create sexual tension. So he met his match this time, but between this example of a very personal abuse of power, and his cavalier use of rape language to hit back at an opposition that had him on the ropes over Christmas Island, is a man who seems to relish his disregard for the niceties of gender equality. As a person who holds our culture and values in his hands, he has failed us.

3 Phil Twyford: Said regretfully and constructively. Labour must have known that the surname data had potential to explode in their faces and should have developed a much stronger narrative before releasing it. Next time set up the case before providing the evidence, share the plan with opinion-making bloggers and cover your progressive flank. Most people have Phil on the winners list for the year – but I truly believe he can and will do better.

Laila Harré is a restaurateur and former Alliance MP

Bernard Hickey

1 Murray McCully

2 Steven Joyce

3 Colin Craig.

Bernard Hickey is the publisher of Hive News

Matthew Hooton

1 Grant Robertson: By now, he should be nationally relevant as the finance minister in waiting, but is nowhere to be seen. Compare him with Bill English at the end of 2006, Michael Cullen at the end of 1997, or Ruth Richardson at the end of 1988.

2 Murray McCully: Just because he’s sick is no reason to forget about his Saudi sheep cover up.

3 David Carter: Has lost the opposition and media’s confidence as Speaker, even more than Margaret Wilson managed.

Matthew Hooton is a public affairs strategist

Toby Manhire

1 Sam Lotu-Iiga: Dealt a crappy hand as Minister of Corrections, but played that hand badly all the same. To confuse the playing-card metaphor, he was shuffled down the deck in the PM’s late reshuffle (nb everyone else on this page filed their assessments last week, before the reshuffle).

2= Nick Smith & Murray McCully: The government signalled the severity of the housing problem by appointing three ministers to cover the issue, but Nick Smith is the one that has taken the rap for the glacial pace in Auckland, as encapsulated by the image of him dragging journalists around the city pointing at traffic islands, saying new developments would go there (wrongly). McCully’s miserable run on Saudi sheep could have been salvaged by bringing peace to the Middle East but no luck there.

3 Colin Craig: Poor Colin.

Toby Manhire is Spinoff Politics Editor and a columnist for NZ Herald and RNZ.

Josie Pagani

1 Phil Twyford: Not for being a bad person, but for doing a bad thing. He made a list of people with Chinese-sounding surnames and blamed them for the housing bubble. Scapegoating an ethnic group for complex economic problems has never turned out well. No amount of explaining (‘When I said Chinese I meant speculators’) excuses making a list of people with Chinese-sounding names.

2 Murray McCully: Pretended an $11 million payoff to a Saudi sheep farmer was not compensation for the ban on live exports, but a ‘facilitation payment’ to set up an ‘Agri Hub’. Not only was the substantive payment an awful use of our money, the subsequent cover up and outright lies told about it are a scandal for which he should have been sacked.

3 David Seymour: Stop it. He is not the politician of the year as some have said, just because he is sometimes less loony than the Act guy before him who supported polygamy and Class A drugs for all. Nor because he helped make it possible to drink beer while watching the rugby world cup. That’s setting the bar too low.Whatever next? If expectations remain this low, the most popular Prime Minister will be someone whose main idea for growing the economy so far has been a cycle pathway.

Josie Pagani is a communications consultant and former Labour candidate

Bill Ralston

1 Len Brown: So bad at politics he had to announce he was quitting a full year in advance.

2 Ron Mark: Who is trying to stake his leadership claim to NZ First by being even meaner and nastier than Winston.

3 Russell Norman: Who finally realised his vision for the Greens was so flawed that he gave up.

Bill Ralston is a former political editor, communications adviser and prospective Auckland Council candidate

Claire Robinson

1 Bill English: For being penholder for a flawed flag referendum process, and allowing his boss’s preferences to influence, consciously or unconsciously, the final four flag selection.

2 The entire Flag Consideration Panel: For not giving voters sufficient choice in the flag selection process.

3 Paula Bennett: In a speech in March 2015 (her only state services speech posted on the Beehive website all year) she made grand proclamations about restructuring the public service around a citizen-centred approach to delivery. But nothing has changed in this area. Sure she was passed the monkey that others before her couldn’t deal with. But after seven years in government it is extraordinary that no-one in government has been able to take real leadership in this space.

Claire Robinson is Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Creative Arts, Massey University

Rob Salmond

1 Serco Sam

2 Michael “Cuidado! Worm farmers” Woodhouse

3 Nick “balloon full of angry bees” Smith

Rob Salmond is a political analyst whose clients include the Labour Party

David Slack

1 Murray McCully

2 John Key

3 Dick Quax

David Slack is a speechwriter and author

Ben Thomas

1 Murray McCully: Really, the worst collective performers politically this year are the opposition MPs who failed to secure McCully’s resignation over the Saudi sheep deal. But the light shined on his “dark arts” exposed the sheer convoluted, pointless ineffectiveness of his famed Machiavellianism.

2 Jacinda Ardern: Still shows enormous potential after seven years in Parliament.

3 Colin Craig, or at least one of them.

Ben Thomas is a public affairs strategist and former political adviser

Chris Trotter

1 Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga

2 Michael Woodhouse

3 Murray McCully

Chris Trotter is a political commentator

Andrea Vance

1 Steven Joyce: Losing the Northland by-election was a humiliating blow that cost National its RMA changes.

2= Sam Lotu-Inga (Serco), Michael Woodhouse (wormfarms) & Murray McCully (dodgy sheep deal). I just can’t decide who was worse.

3 Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem: Not a politician, but she should hang her head in shame for how the OIA has been degraded on her watch.

Andrea Vance is a political reporter for One News

Guy Williams

1 Andrew Little: I have no idea about his political skill but his PR skills are very poor and obviously I value this very highly. The toughest interview we had on Jono and Ben this year and not in a good way.

2 Probably about 20 National MPs but you wouldn’t notice because it’s all about John Key.

3 The Labour Party PR department: Haven’t scored one goal this year despite facing an open goal on numerous occasions. If they have an evil Crosby Textor support crew they should be sacked. If they don’t have an evil Crosby Textor support crew they should hire one.

Guy Williams is a comedian

Simon Wilson

1 Ron Mark: Sure, he steamrollered Tracey Martin to become deputy leader of NZ First. But only in order to demonstrate that he’s a complete ninconpoop. Even NZ First voters, who will tolerate a lot, won’t vote for this idiot.

2 Paula Bennett: The official next-leader-of-the-National-Party job was hers for the taking at the start of the year, but now it’s Paula Who? Quite possibly deliberately over-promoted by Steven Joyce in order to expose her shortcomings.

3 Metiria Turei: Who’s the senior co-leader of the Green Party again? Oh, right. Being eclipsed by the newbie James Shaw has made 2015 not a good year for poor old Met.

Simon Wilson is editor-at-large, Metro magazine

Jamie Whyte

1 Colin Craig

2 Ron Mark

3 Peter Dunne

Jamie Whyte is a writer and former leader of the ACT Party

Tomorrow: The Ups and Downs

See also: The Champs – the Political Stars of 2015, according to our 23 experts

The Spinoff’s political coverage is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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