Dunedin MP Michael Woodhouse all but departs

A National party election billboard promoting Dunedin candidate Michael Woodhouse. PHOTO: GERARD...
A National party election billboard promoting Dunedin candidate Michael Woodhouse. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The political career of National list MP Michael Woodhouse is all but over, after the veteran politician and former Cabinet minister opted not to accept his placement on his party’s list.

Mr Woodhouse remains the National candidate for Dunedin — and has won the party vote there before — so he retains an outside chance of making it back to Parliament via that method of election.

The Otago Daily Times understands Mr Woodhouse gave National the choice of standing down as National’s Dunedin candidate if the party wished him to, but National decided withdrawing his candidacy would have been disruptive and expensive.

National has only won the Dunedin seat once, in its landslide win in 1975.

Mr Woodhouse took a pragmatic view of his chances, posting on social media on Saturday that he was "somewhat sad about the process of my departure from political life".

Mr Woodhouse, 57, was first elected to Parliament in 2008, and in the governments of John Key and Bill English held a range of ministerial roles, including workplace relations and safety, police, immigration and revenue.

Opposition has been more of a rollercoaster ride, rising high in the party rankings when close ally Simon Bridges was party leader, dropping down when Judith Collins took over, and then treading water somewhat under Christopher Luxon’s leadership.

However, Mr Woodhouse is his party’s shadow leader of the House and as an experienced politician would have anticipated playing a prominent role in a National administration should his party have been in a position to form a government following the October 14 election.

Alternatively, being one of the best-informed MPs on standing orders, he could have become a presiding officer.

Instead, his career ended in messy circumstances on Saturday, with Mr Woodhouse’s social media posts strongly suggesting he felt his long and loyal service to National had been poorly recognised.

"It was clear from the ranking offered that I was not part of the leadership’s thinking regarding ministerial positions, so I felt the best thing to do is stand aside and allow a fresher face into the caucus."

Mr Woodhouse said he felt "overwhelmingly grateful" to have served the National Party for 15 years.

"No bitterness, just fond memories and fantastic friendships made."

With that, Mr Woodhouse made a swift retreat from politics: by yesterday his MP Facebook page was shut down and his answer phone message had reverted to "Mike Woodhouse" without the addition of "National Dunedin list MP".

The complete list held mixed fortunes for National’s southern MPs and candidates.

Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds will be delighted at being ranked 16th: quite apart from her high position being a handy backstop should she not be able to retain her electorate seat, it puts her firmly in the running for a ministerial role should National win the election.

Southland MP Joseph Mooney’s lowly placement at 53 reflects his holding a safe electorate seat, although he might have felt a solid first term on the backbenches could have been recognised by the symbolism of a higher ranking.

Taieri candidate Matthew French will need an epic landslide or a major upside against Labour incumbent Ingrid Leary if the 49-ranked Mr French is to make it to Parliament.

Waitaki candidate Miles Anderson was ranked 59, but he will be expected to win a traditional National-voting seat.

On Saturday, Mr Luxon refused to comment on whether Mr Woodhouse could have been a minister.

He said he had spoken to Mr Woodhouse earlier in the day and "he made it very clear to me that he wanted to withdraw from the list".

Mr Luxon said Mr Woodhouse had made a fantastic contribution.

"I wish him really well ... he has done it all in his political career over 15 years ... he’s been a senior minister in the Key and English governments holding really important portfolios, and he’s played a really important role in our team in opposition."


National Top 20

1 Christopher Luxon    Botany

2 Nicola Willis              Ōhāriu

3 Chris Bishop             Hutt South

4 Shane Reti                Whangārei

5 Paul Goldsmith         Epsom

6 Louise Upston          Taupō

7 Erica Stanford           East Coast Bays

8 Matt Doocey             Waimakariri

9 Simeon Brown         Pakuranga

10 Judith Collins          Papakura

11 Mark Mitchell           Whangaparāoa

12 Todd McClay           Rotorua

13 Melissa Lee             Mt Albert

14 Gerry Brownlee       List

15 Andrew Bayly          Port Waikato

16 Penny Simmonds    Invercargill

17 Simon Watts            North Shore

18 Chris Penk               Kaipara ki Mahurangi

19 Nicola Grigg            Selwyn

20 Nancy Lu                List   


49 Matthew French     Taieri

53 Joseph Mooney     Southland

59 Miles Anderson      Waitaki