October 4, 2005

Still not quite there

This was the fourth election under MMP, and the New Zealand media still have a little way to go in understanding it.

Jim Sutton, Labour's Minister for Trade Negotiations and Agriculture lost his electorate seat at the election by about 6,000 votes. Interestingly, the party vote in this partly rural South Island electorate only went to National by about 900 votes, which should give some pause to the notion that there was a big city-country divide.

Now there's all kinds of talk that Sutton might lose his seat in Cabinet because he lost his electorate. To which I say, huh??

No one has questioned Sutton's capability as a Minister, a role in which he's advanced New Zealand's interests by negotiating several free trade agreements (Chile, Singapore), helped keep up the pressure on the protectionist EU and United States to liberalize trade, and done a good job in managing Labour's relationship with the agricultural sector. He's not the most dynamic member of parliament, and he will probably never be leader, but he's been a competent, diligent Minister in a government that has had some less than competent and diligent Ministers.

Whether or not he wins his electorate is immaterial to those qualifications for being in Cabinet.

Moreover, with his opponent, Jo Goodhew—by all accounts a capable and personable candidate—ranked 31 on National's list, while Sutton was 11th on Labour's, there was plenty of incentive for people in the electorate to vote tactically and get both Sutton and Goodhew into Parliament.

It also bears mentioning that Marian Hobbs—one of the few Labour MPs to massively boost her electorate majority, and Labour's share of the party vote in Wellington Central—has stepped down from Cabinet. That should make it a little clearer that electorate votes don't translate into Cabinet selection.

Posted by robe0419 at October 4, 2005 4:47 PM