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September 12, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Politics With Paul – The National Party List

Released just over a week ago, the National Party list holds few surprises and it makes sense.

Even though some complain of complacency, National are clearly onto a winning formula at this point, and as the old adage goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Despite that, there are a couple of elements to the rankings that warrant analysis.

Current National list MP Tau Henare is the big loser on the list, dropping from 26 to 40. Granted the drop is likely not enough to see the incumbent turfed out, but is a pretty clear indication from Key and the Party hacks that they’re less than impressed with his performance over the past three years. As Key hinted, “there’s a message there”, although at the same time the Prime Minister said he wouldn’t be drawn into “performance discussions” with the media.

The other significant drop is likely to have more profound consequences for its unlucky recipient. Paul Quinn, dropping to a rank of 56, now relies on National capturing approximately 48 per cent of the Party Vote to secure a seat in the next Parliament. That just might happen, but with iPredict currently forecasting slightly less (47.1 per cent), it might be time for Mr Quinn to update the old CV quick smart.

Speaker Lockwood Smith, on the other hand, has jumped from twelfth to third place, a consequence of his vacating the seat of Rodney due to the constraints he faces in his role as Speaker. Another apparent winner, new candidate Paul Goldsmith, was awarded number 39 to guarantee him backdoor entry after he agreed to stand in the (relatively) safe Act electorate: Epsom.

The two real surprises come with Auckland University lecturer Jian Yang and Pastor Alfred Ngaro at 35 and 36 respectively; neither of whom we’ve heard anything about until now, and selections that reflect an effort to ensure ethnic diversity in the National caucus. The former is a particularly important selection in maintaining National’s links with the Chinese community following Pansy Wong’s exit late last year.

As David Farrar extrapolates, National is doing fairly well in the ethnicity stakes. “At 48%, National would have seven MPs of Maori descent, which would be 12 per cent of Caucus. This is equal to adult Maori population, which is 12 per cent of the country. There would also be two Pacific MPs and three Asian MPs.”

While they might be succeeding in achieving ethnic diversity, gender diversity continues to lag; a problem that has always, and clearly continues to plague National. Female candidates comprise only one-quarter of the Party’s list, despite the fact the fairer sex make up more than 50 per cent of the country’s population.

The New Zealand Herald has reported that Key has been explicit in wanting to see more women represented under the National banner, and even though a number of current women MPs have been promoted, including Paula Bennett (up to 14 from 41), Hekia Parata (18 from 36), and Amy Adams (28 from 52), only two of the top ten positions are occupied by female candidates: Judith Collins (7), and Anne Tolley (8), with only a further three rounding out the top 20.

By comparison, alongside Annette King as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the opposition have three further women represented in their top 10, and a total of eight in their top 20.

Perhaps it’s not such a surprise. For, at the same time as the Party releases a list that largely maintains National’s inherent male conservatism, the Prime Minister is promoting a change to our electoral system, despite the fact that MMP has seen the percentage of woman in Parliament rise from 14.4 per cent at the beginning of 1990s to 33.6 per cent in 2010. The Supplementary Member alternative Key advocates will not help the cause; more than likely turning back the clock instead.

Therefore, for all the rhetoric, Key and the National Party must start actively approaching and pushing woman candidates to stand in safe National seats thus pushing up the Party’s gender diversity. Granted, it wouldn’t have made a difference in this election, but with any drop in popularity for the Party leader among female constituents, National could be looking down a very different barrel in 2014.

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