National defends Woodhouse's contribution

National leader Christopher Luxon, left and Michael Woodhouse at the new Dunedin Hospital site...
National leader Christopher Luxon, left and Michael Woodhouse at the new Dunedin Hospital site last month. Photo: Peter McIntosh
National has defended the contribution made by its likely outgoing Dunedin list MP Michael Woodhouse and his advocacy for the South.

However, it did not comment on what role diversity might, or might not, have played in his being given a low place on the party list.

In a wide-ranging interview published in the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Mr Woodhouse set out how and why he made his decision to refuse the list ranking offered to the 15-year MP and former Cabinet minister by his party, and said it had probably badly affected any momentum National had in Dunedin, usually a safe Labour seat.

National leader Christopher Luxon said in a statement to the ODT Mr Woodhouse had come to the conclusion to withdraw from the list on his own, and that he respected his decision.

"We have a lot of talented people but unfortunately not everyone can be at the top of the list. So there were some tough choices that needed to be made.

"In his 15-year career, Michael has made a massive contribution to Parliament and has been a strong advocate for the South. He was a minister in the previous National Government and has been Shadow Leader of the House in Opposition," Mr Luxon said.

National was absolutely committed to the South, as evidenced by its recently announced policy to replace all beds, operating theatres and radiology services removed from the plans for the new Dunedin Hospital, he said.

That stance was strongly advocated for by Mr Woodhouse, who remains his party’s candidate for Dunedin.

National would be seeking the party vote in Dunedin and looked forward to engaging with voters over the coming months.

The ODT article caused a furore yesterday and Mr Woodhouse disputed the main angle taken by the newspaper, that Mr Woodhouse and other senior National MPs had dropped in the party ranks because they were male.

In the article, Mr Woodhouse said: "There was a contest between diversity and experience, and in my case diversity won ... Frankly, there is a group of hard-working male MPs with secure seats who have been given positions in the mid-50s, which puts them at a very very significant disadvantage."

Yesterday, Mr Woodhouse told Newstalk ZB that he thought what had been reported was "a mischaracterisation" of what he said and that it had portrayed him as "some toy-throwing misogynist — and that’s very unfair and untrue".

Mr Luxon later told Three’s AM Show that National had not pushed men out of the top-ranking list positions.

"Absolutely not, we’ve got a fantastic list. It balances experienced, seasoned MPs with brand new talent with new skills and experiences they’re bringing into, potentially, our team we take into the election."

When approached by the ODT yesterday, Mr Woodhouse said that he had said all that he wanted to.

He was back in Parliament yesterday.

The National list has 21 women and 19 men in the top 40. Several sitting male MPs, several of whom have had lengthy careers but also hold safe seats, were ranked lowly.

Stuart Smith, previously ranked 19, was dropped to 56; Simon O’Connor, ranked 35 on the 2020 election list, was dropped to 54 and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, ranked 19th in caucus in January, is 55.