Politics

Politics: Toby Manhire’s Inaugural Spinoff Political Power Rankings – August 2015

Arbitrarily split into five political players whose power is growing and five going the other way, these rankings will become a monthly event. For the purposes of this glittering premiere, however, the month of August will be considered to run from August 1 through to September 10. All complaints should be directed to your local MP’s constituency office.

UPWARD

1. Kelvin Davis

The Labour Corrections spokesman has made Sam Lotu-Iiga squirm over revelations around violence at Mt Eden Prison and its management by private multinational Serco.

His insouciant defiance of leader Andrew Little in attending a charter school fundraising event in Northland reflected his increasingly strong position on the opposition benches.

2. Jacinda Ardern

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A surge in the Herald digipoll that ranked her the preferred PM for 3.9% of respondents (oh, the lofty heights!). That prompted former NZ rugby league coach Graham Lowe to tell Paul Henry that she seemed a “pretty little thing”, which in turn prompted a debate through the week on sexism in parliament.

The idea of Ardern as Labour leader, however, has no more eager cheerleaders than the National Party, who have feasted happily on dissent in the Labour ranks for years.

3. Bill English

Despite some of the worst economic data for years, the finance minister has rarely looked discomfited, greeting inquiries with that strangely reassuring quizzical look and an ability to soothe the people of New Zealand to sleep with talk of automatic stabilisers and fiscal fundamentals.

His ability to provide unflappable cover as acting PM in John Key’s absence is not to be underestimated, either.

4. Richie McCaw

A man beloved by many, but by no one more than our elected representatives. McCaw and his squad were feted in an orgy of sycophancy at Parliament, while the days following his record-breaking 142nd  Test witnessed fevered speculation about his future in politics. While McCaw himself repeated, time and time again, very politely, that he had no interest whatsover in going into politics, the consensus was that he was very definitely a future prime minister or president or czar or Dalai Lama or pretty much whatever he fancies.

5. David Seymour

The ingénue of the election campaign didn’t enter public life auspiciously:


But Seymour has lately turned into a fearsome political machine. Or an adept one, anyway. He was principled in sponsoring a euthanasia bill and populist in pushing through the Rugby World Cup go-the-pub-at-breakfast bill. As he showed in a standout performance on the recent Auckland instalment of Back Benches, when he gets going on generational divides and rethinking superannuation, he can win over a sceptical younger audience. And now he’s on board the Red Peak juggernaut.

DOWNWARD

1. Michael Woodhouse

At the end of July, the NZ Herald ranked Michael Woodhouse the best performing government minister, giving him nine out of 10. Some vengeful force in the universe was obviously triggered, because he’s had a miserable month. His Health and Safety Reform Bill has become bedevilled by mockery around the designation of activities such as worm farming and mini-golf as more dangerous than dairy farming.

Legislation to introduce Easter trading looked rushed to change the debate, but that too was done hamfistedly. As Minister of Immigration, he was effectively sidelined by the prime minister over the refugee issue.

2. Sam Lotu-Iiga

See Kelvin Davis, above. The very opposite of that, and then some.

3. Maurice Williamson

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Oh, Maurice. One day you’re a global sensation, all gay rainbows over the Pakuranga Highway and invitations to appear on Ellen. The next you’re dressed up as the Greatest American Hero, making crass gags about blowjobs at a computer software conference in Auckland.

4. Tim Groser

The big Hawaiian last-chance saloon failed to deliver any agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it all descended into an unsavoury game of participant countries blaming one another for being stubborn bastards, leaving what trade experts call a “curdled milkshake”, with concessions on dairy and sugar unforthcoming.

It’s all gone a bit quiet since, though Mr Groser did himself no favours by dismissing protesters as ignorant fools who have no idea what’s in the deal, given they were protesting the fact they had no idea what was in the deal.

5. Murray McCully

Seems to have spent most of the last month avoiding questions about the Saudi flying sheep saga – which has now been referred to the Auditor General’s Office – thereby losing the opportunity to trumpet New Zealand’s stint as chair of the UN Security Council.

Things were salvaged, if only slightly, by his decision to take serious action against the contemptible government of Nauru.

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