Analysis: Commitment to Dunedin questioned

Michael Woodhouse. PHOTO: NZ PARLIAMENT
Michael Woodhouse. PHOTO: NZ PARLIAMENT
It seldom does one any good to declaim "Don’t you know who I am?", as Michael Woodhouse may well be reflecting this morning.

Despite 15 years in Parliament, and despite a wealth of ministerial and political experience available for any possible National government to call upon, Mr Woodhouse’s political career ended abruptly on Saturday with a brutal snub and an almighty huff.

Neither Mr Woodhouse nor National’s leader Christopher Luxon have given any clues as to where Mr Woodhouse would have been ranked had he opted to take his shivving and stay on the list.

But the Dunedin list MP’s comment that he "was not part of the leadership’s thinking regarding ministerial positions" offers some clues.

The first 13 on the list would almost certainly be guaranteed a spot in Cabinet should Mr Luxon be in a position to appoint one following the October 14 election, and are a predictable recitation of the National front bench.

At 14 is Gerry Brownlee, who by default appears destined to be National’s candidate for Speaker - a role for which Mr Woodhouse would also have been well qualified - and at 15 is senior MP Andrew Bayly.

Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds sits at a well-deserved 16, followed by Simon Watts - who has benefited from the prominence afforded to him by the RMA reforms - and then senior whip Chris Penk at 18.

Mr Woodhouse’s previous party ranking was in this zone, so assuming he was ranked even further south than that, he would have found it challenging just to be re-elected, let alone regain a ministerial warrant.

National has loudly trumpeted that it has a diverse and refreshed list. Mr Woodhouse appears to have fallen victim to not ticking either of those boxes - in ranking spots 19-28 sit eight women and two men, Tama Potaka and list-only candidate James Christmas, for whom National harbours high hopes.

Mr Woodhouse is entitled to wonder just what he did to deserve being ranked in that vicinity, or maybe even lower.

While there was some fleeting embarrassment about the potentially non-existent homeless man Mr Woodhouse claimed took up an MIQ spot, it is not like he overlooked 16 requests to sell his share portfolio or some such.

National, having done a Twyford (demoting a former Cabinet minister well down its list, a la Labour’s treatment of Phil Twyford) to Mr Woodhouse, raises further questions about the party’s commitment to Dunedin.

While not quite being the "socialist hell hole" former attorney-general Chris Finlayson has described it as, Dunedin is a left-leaning city.

National is unlikely to thrive on these stony shores.

But it is also not a good look for it not to have any representation at all in New Zealand’s sixth-biggest city, and in one of the traditional main centres.

Right-leaning voters in Dunedin could be entitled to wonder why they should not look elsewhere on the political spectrum if that is the regard with which National holds Dunedin.

- Mike Houlahan is the ODT's political editor