Demotions for Dunedin's two electorate MPs in Labour
leader David Cunliffe's new line-up, unveiled yesterday, are
signs of the city's loss of influence in an otherwise cautious
reshuffle, University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce
But both Dunedin North MP David Clark and Dunedin South MP
Clare Curran, who publicly backed former deputy Grant
Robertson for the party leadership, were philosophical about
the moves when contacted yesterday.
Dr Clark, a rising star under former leader David Shearer,
has dipped eight places to 20th, losing the economic
development portfolio to Shane Jones.
And Ms Curran lost information communications technology
(ICT) and broadcasting, and has fallen out of the list of 25
Dr Clark will pick up the revenue portfolio he had before the
reshuffle earlier this year in which he was promoted. He also
picks up small business, associate health, and associate
Dr Clark acknowledged he was disappointed, but looked forward
to resuming the revenue portfolio, and learning about the
health sector for his new associate role.
Dr Clark emphasised he was in his first term, had much to
learn and had been somewhat surprised by the rapidity of his
rise under Mr Shearer.
''The new leader has made a decision and he's determined to
run a merit-based system. I'm determined to succeed in that
Politics was collaborative as well as competitive and his
ranking drop was not overly significant in itself.
He acknowledged a small factor in his demotion might have
been the need to promote more women MPs, but it was good to
see them achieving, he said.
He believed the revenue portfolio was underrated,
especially given the tax avoidance issues the world faced. He
hoped to play a role in the wider economic team under Mr
Cunliffe's new cluster system, but the teams had not been
Ms Curran last night said she was ''very disappointed'' to
lose broadcasting, but there were a lot of challenges in the
roles she had been given as deputy on ICT and regional
development, which she said were people portfolios, which was
why she thought she had been given them.
Asked why she thought she had been reshuffled, she said:
''You would have to have to ask David Cunliffe that.''
Dr Edwards said Dr Clark's fortunes had sunk because Mr
Cunliffe had to reward some of his loyalists while
accommodating other influential MPs, and he did not owe Dr
''[Mr Cunliffe's] obviously not viewing Dr Clark as the
up-and-comer that others do.''
Ms Curran was blamed for striking the leadership contest's
only sour note, when she accused a Cunliffe campaign member
of using leadership contender Grant Robertson's sexuality
''Unfortunately for Clare Curran, she didn't entrench herself
by being a strong thorn in the side of this Government. She's
been more of a thorn in the side of her own party.''
She retained the open government portfolio, but this was
essentially a sop without the technology roles partnering it,
Dr Edwards said.
She was also given civil defence/emergency management,
associate ICT, associate regional development, and associate
Neither of the Dunedin MPs appeared to be ''setting the world
on fire at the moment'' and their demotions may also be a
message to focus on winning back the party vote in Dunedin in
next year's general election, he said.
Overall, Mr Cunliffe's new line-up was more tentative than
expected, and had not exacted revenge against his detractors.
''It's not a dramatic revamp. The dead wood [MPs] is likely
to be removed over a longer time.''
Good performers were rewarded with high places regardless of
previous enmity against Mr Cunliffe and even some of the less
stellar ones kept placings, presumably to avoid potential
fallout from splitting up factions, he said.
''I think Dunedin has just become less important for Labour
in today's reshuffle,'' he said.
Mr Cunliffe probably wanted to make a more decisive break
with the 1980s-era MPs forming the right-wing faction in
caucus, but was unable to because of lack of talent among
younger MPs, and the older MPs' continuing influence, Dr
Dunedin-based list MP and finance spokesman David Parker's
elevation to deputy leader was not particularly significant
for Dunedin, as he was not a strong presence in the city,
despite making it his base.
Mr Cunliffe's decision to take both ICT and regional
development for himself was surprising, and potentially a
bonus for Dunedin, as it signalled a desire for Labour to use
regional development to define itself from National.