MP’s future in doubt after low ranking

Invercargill Labour list MP, Liz Craig. PHOTO: COLE YEOMAN
Invercargill Labour list MP, Liz Craig. PHOTO: COLE YEOMAN
The political future of Invercargill Labour list MP Dr Liz Craig is in serious doubt.

The lowly rank bestowed upon her yesterday on Labour’s party list delivered her little chance of returning to Parliament after the October 14 election.

Dr Craig, who was ranked 41 in the party’s 2020 list, dropped to 44 in the 2023 rankings, released by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and party president Jill Day.

The 56-year-old public health physician entered Parliament in 2017 when she was ranked 31st in the list. She dropped 10 places in 2020 but was one of many backbench MPs who benefited from the historic Labour landslide victory in that election.

Dr Craig failed to make Jacinda Ardern’s Cabinet but was given a senior sub-Cabinet role as parliamentary private secretary for health.

While that role recognised and made use of Dr Craig’s skills, it has not resulted in her being elevated to a likely winnable position on the list.

Labour is now rating about 33% in opinion polls.

If it polled a similar percentage on October 14, depending on how many electorates it won, the party might elect about a dozen list MPs.

There are seven senior MPs, including former Otago MP David Parker, who are list-only candidates and ranked in Labour’s top 20.

Dr Craig would be reliant on almost all the 23 candidates below 20 and above her winning electorates, or Labour’s vote increasing well above its current polling, to make it back to Parliament.

Alternatively, she would need to unseat incumbent National MP Penny Simmonds in Invercargill, and Dr Craig did slash National’s majority from 5579 in 2017 to just 224 three years ago.

Dr Craig was diplomatic when asked about her list ranking yesterday.

"It’s great to be part of such a diverse and talented team, and I’m pleased to see the depth of experience on the Labour list," she said.

"With so much at stake at this year’s election, I will be putting all of my efforts into running a strong campaign here in Invercargill."

Dr Craig said her hometown had benefited significantly from the Labour government, which had supported the Invercargill CBD redevelopment and the Stead St stopbank upgrade.

Another incumbent southern MP who might endure a nervous election night is Dunedin resident and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene.

While the 6855 majority Mr Tirikatene accumulated in 2020 looks secure, Te Pati Maori is hoping to sweep all the Maori seats, and should it succeed, a list ranking of 21 means Mr Tirikatene may not be assured of getting back in via that method.

Labour’s Dunedin candidate Rachel Brooking was ranked two spots below Mr Tirikatene, but Labour will be banking on the minister outside Cabinet retaining the seat once held by the retiring Dr David Clark.

Likewise, Ingrid Leary has been ranked lowly, at 52, but will be expected to hold her seat of Taieri.

Labour’s other southern candidates were ranked well down the batting order.

Southland candidate Simon McCallum — whose name was misspelled on the party’s press release — is at 70, while youthful Waitaki candidate Ethan Reille occupied the 76th and final spot.


The top 20: Labour’s list

1.Chris Hipkins11.Adrian Rurawhe
2.Kelvin Davis12.Andrew Little
3.Carmel Sepuloni        13.David Parker
4.Grant Robertson14.Peeni Henare
5.Megan Woods15.Priyanca Radhakrishnan
6.Jan Tinetti16.Kieran McAnulty
7.Ayesha Verrall17.Ginny Andersen
8.Willie Jackson18.Barbara Edmonds
9.Willow-Jean Prime19.Jo Luxton
10.Damien O'Connor20.Duncan Webb

— Mike Houlahan, Political editor