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Herald on Sunday editorial: Best politicians hand out sharp lessons and wit

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Shane Jones bounces back. Photo / Doug Sherring
Shane Jones bounces back. Photo / Doug Sherring

As Christmas is just two days away I've joined in the season of goodwill by picking my top 10 politicians this year. Next week I'll rank the 10 worst. John Key is on next week's list.

10. Shane Jones. He was finished a couple of years ago. Now he's in the media whenever he wants. He's the only Labour MP who smacks the Greens when they get too sanctimonious. If he survives investigation of his approval of Bill Liu's residency he'll be a senior player in the next Labour cabinet.

9. Tony Ryall. The health portfolio used to be the graveyard for ministers. Ryall has implemented everything he wanted and no one complained. When was the last time you heard any major gripes about the hospital system?

8. Grant Robertson. He swapped sides in the leadership contest and got the number two slot. Detractors claim he stocked his leader's office with allies and was ready to cut David Shearer's throat if David Cunliffe's challenge got traction.

He's one of the caucus' smartest strategists. He is loyal to his leader, but if Labour loses the next election, the leadership will be his without a fight. Did I say he was smart?

7. Hone Harawira. He overshadows the Maori Party and is Maori's highest-polling politician by far. His recent arrest for blocking the removal of South Auckland state houses appals the chattering classes but stakes out his constituency. He will bury the Maori Party at the next election.

6. Judith Collins. She reminds me of Maggie Thatcher. Opportunist and mean-spirited. Caved in after threatening to sue Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard but still gives the impression she's a tough cookie. The hard right of her party love her and she's on top of her portfolios. Probably National's scary next leader.

5. Phil Twyford. Labour's best organiser and driving force of rebuilding the party in Auckland. He garners more substantive media coverage than his colleagues. On merit, he should get a front bench spot next year.

4. Paula Bennett. Who says you need talent to be a good politician? Her natural populism and barbed quips make her the darling of the masses. How she gets away with kicking the poor and at the same time have them believe she's one of them is truly impressive.

3. Winston Peters. The old master himself. He is the benchmark for every other politician. Insiders know he'll decide who will be next prime minister. His ruthless dispatch of the unfortunate Brendon Horan sends a warning to his MPs that they all serve at his pleasure.

2. Russel Norman. The Greens co-leader is one of the few MPs in any party who actually understands economics. He leads the most effective party in Parliament. While Labour has been internalised on its own problems, Norman has done the heavy lifting in opposition. If Labour thinks it can sideline the Greens in the next government it will get a rude shock.

1. David Shearer. He started the year a loser and finished it as undisputed leader of his party. It took a covert campaign by Cunliffe to give him the opportunity to lift his game at his party conference. It was a master stroke to seek a unanimous vote for his leadership while at the same time dispatching his rival to sit among the backbenchers. Working people like decisive leadership. The end-of-year polls show his party with the Greens will beat National. And that makes him my politician of the year.

- Herald on Sunday

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