Feb 23, 2008

Why Is Annette King Staying On?

Page A8 of today's Dominion Post contains a brief analysis of the growing list of Labour MPs that are leaving the sinking ship. The article was stimulated by the news that Margaret Wilson had confirmed the speculation that she too was not wanting to waste any more time in Parliament.

Two names not on the list, but which perhaps should be are Michael Cullen and Annette King. Cullen we understand. He will fight hard for the cause and try his best for the Party. You never know, if things get really bad and Labour needs an interim Leader/ PM Cullen might well do a Mike Moore. What better way to cap off his career in politics. He is list only so after the election and the real leadership change he just stands down, becomes a full time golfer and someone comes in from the list.

Annette King is more complicated. She has been there a long time. She had a reputation for being one of the most solid Ministers - no scandal would stick. However she clearly can't cope with either of her main portfolios and is increasingly relying on Minister Fixit Cullen for help on Transport and as Justice Minister. This has meant that she doesn't even have a hope at the Deputy job when it comes up. So why does she want to hang around and spend three more years in Parliament in opposition, trying to defend the long list of scandals that will be revealed when National really gets a chance to look at the books.

King is an electorate MP - for Rongotai. She has made it a very safe seat, and it has become safer on paper as a result of the boundary changes. She will win the seat in 2008, so if she stands down there will have to be a by-election.

Is this the reason she isn't retiring in 2008? King stands down in early 2010 - Andrew Little (who lives in the electorate and who has established the EPMU HQ square in the middle of it - in Rongotai to be precise (go have a coffee at the Flying Saucer, sit on the couch and look out the window) stands and gets huge publicity, wins, and sails up to the Labour leadership - just as happened with David Lange? A bit risky. Goff or Cunliffe will be onto this already and will not be wanting a bar of it.

But what if Annette announces that she is standing down in 2008? Andrew Little can be there for the leadership contest that is inevitable when the Party purges itself of Clark. We can't say that he has a good chance of winning in 2009 or 2010 but this can't be ruled out completely. Goff will have even fewer allies from the right in the new Parliament than he does now. The PM has made sure of that - all the new candidates seem to be from the left faction. Cunliffe might think he has a chance, but he is still hated by most of his colleagues (and voting Cunliffe into the top job would be seen as a wonderful outcome by National who just love "those Cunliffe moments". Who else is there? Mallard?

Watch this space.