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New Zealand First Mark Patterson confirmed this week that he will stand in Taieri this election...
New Zealand First Mark Patterson confirmed this week that he will stand in Taieri this election.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The worst-kept secret in politics was finally confirmed this week, with the announcement that Mark Patterson will stand for New Zealand First in Taieri this election.

On the surface that decision might seem straightforward — Mr Patterson’s Lawrence farm has been "shifted" from Southland to Taieri by boundary changes and New Zealand First likes its candidates to live where they are standing.

However, Mr Patterson has put a lot of effort into the former Clutha Southland seat and may have been tempted to capitalise on that.

The list MP has greatly elevated his party’s profile in the region, through obvious means such as opening electorate offices and less obvious means such as conscientious leg work.

New Zealand First recorded its best result for years in Clutha Southland in 2017, and will be hoping for a similar result across the South in 2020.

In previous years, Otago and Southland have been somewhat of an afterthought for New Zealand First, some electorates not even having candidates.

For 2020 the party has an actual southern strategy, and the profile afforded by having a local MP campaigning across the lower South is a key part of that plan.

Taieri was always going to be an intriguing contest thanks to the boundary changes, and adding Mr Patterson into the mix makes the seat even more unpredictable.

Mr Patterson may potentially take rural votes away from National’s candidate Liam Kernaghan, and he will also be hoping the Provincial Growth Fund’s largesse for South Dunedin will secure urban votes from Labour’s Ingrid Leary.

Winning the seat itself seems unlikely — but Mr Patterson’s presence on the ballot may determine which way it falls.

Party votes will be his focus, and given New Zealand First’s current polling numbers that will be a very determined focus for Mr Patterson.

David Clark
David Clark
We shall overcome?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had to call upon all her considerable powers of endurance this week, after another seven days of calls for David Clark’s resignation as Health Minister.

The Dunedin North MP went viral this week, as a video clip of his abnegation of responsibility for issues with border control to keep the novel coronavirus out of New Zealand was picked up by every news media outlet and plenty of social media commenters.

This was a perfect example of the Health Minister’s inability to take a trick at the moment.

Every politician, from the Prime Minister down to the lowest backbencher, are supplied with what are called "talking points" — a rough guideline as to what they should say in response to certain tough questions.

There is a reason why politicians of the same party often say the same thing when quizzed by the media: they are "staying on message".

Which was why Dr Clark — who no doubt had been advised in no uncertain fashion that he was to stay on message no matter what — repeated on Wednesday what he and the Prime Minister had been consistently saying since the middle of last week, that "this was an operational matter", that the Director-general of health had apologised, and that the system had failed.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield
Dr Ashley Bloomfield
Except this time the aforementioned Dr Ashley Bloomfield was standing right behind Dr Clark, the TV cameras seemingly capturing the very moment his heart broke.

Who knows what the reserved and carefully controlled Dr Bloomfield was actually thinking — he is far too professional to let on.

The visual message, fair or not, was another hammer blow for Dr Clark’s public standing though.

It was notable that at question time the following day the message had had a rebrand, with Dr Clark stating several times that "ultimately, I have ministerial responsibility for the entire public health system".

Whether that withstands another seven days of camera scrutiny of Dr Clark remains to be seen.

Michael Woodhouse
Michael Woodhouse
It was not all bad news for Dr Clark this week though: in Thursday’s One News Colmar Brunton poll one person voted for him as their preferred prime minister.

Although it was another week of discomfiture for Dr Clark, it was far from smooth sailing for his Dunedin North National counterpart Michael Woodhouse.

Labour has been trying to defend Dr Clark by deflecting the media’s attention on to Mr Woodhouse’s thus far unverified claim that a homeless person slipped into a luxury hotel for a fortnight of accommodation at the taxpayers’ expense.

Mr Woodhouse’s claim his source was reliable has not been taken at face value, and he may well need to come up with something more substantial to reassert his credibility.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

Regretfully I voted for Patterson and for the first and last time NZ First. MP List member Mark Patterson has been a disaster for his party. His legacy will be remembered for his disloyalty to those who campaigned for him in 2017.

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