WikiLeaks cable: Labour stakes claim for 2005 elections

This is one of the diplomatic cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.

22 March, 2005
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND LABOUR PARTY STAKES ITS CLAIM FOR 2005 ELECTIONS; RUFFLES SOME FEATHERS

This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.

Classified By: Political and Economic Counselor Katherine B. Hadda, For Reasons 1.4(B,D)

1. (C) Summary. New Zealand's governing Labour party released
its list of Members of Parliament, which outlines the rank by
which MPs will enter Parliament after the 2005 election. The
list reveals Labour's confidence in the face of an upcoming
election, with almost all sitting MPs receiving high
rankings. Shifts in ranking versus the 2002 list, however,
reflect the concerns of Maori MPs, who received higher ranks
after expressing concern over the Maori Party challenge in
their constituencies. MP George Hawkins, the embattled
Police Commissioner, pulled out of the List immediately after
it was released when he was ranked 25th - the lowest spot for
sitting members of Cabinet. In addition, MP John Tamihere,
who remains under a cloud despite being cleared of actual
financial impropriety, has not put forth his name for a List
seat.

Instead, Tamihere says, he will either stave off his
Maori Party opponent in a run for an electoral seat or retire
from Parliament. Labour supporters Shane Jones, David Ching,
and Maryan Street have scored high list rankings - the first
two above a number of sitting MPs. Labour's List assumes an increase in their overall Parliamentary representation,
demonstrating the party does not believe the Opposition's
attacks on the Government's health, education, and crime
policies poses any real threat. End summary.

Maori MPs Grab Higher Ranks
---------------------------

2. (SBU) New Zealand's governing Labour party released its
list of Members of Parliament on March 21. Under MMP, voters
have two votes - one for a constituent MP, and one for a
Party. The List nominates individuals to fill seats based on
the Party vote in the 2005 election (ref A.) The list reveals
Labour's confidence in the face of an upcoming election, with
almost all sitting MPs receiving high rankings. Shifts in
ranking versus the 2002 list, however, reflect the concerns
of Maori MPs, who received higher ranks as a reward for
remaining loyal through the foreshore and seabed conflict of
2004 that resulted in the creation of the Maori Party. Many
Maori MPs had expressed concern over the Maori Party
challenge in their constituencies, and a high ranking assures
their return to Parliament. One noticeable absence from the
List is Nanaia Mahuta, a Maori MP who threatened to sink
Labour's controversial foreshore and seabed legislation in
2004, but ultimately toed the party line. Mahuta was 19th on
the 2002 list, but may have decided to follow fellow Maori MP
John Tamihere's example and rely on winning her constituent
seat.

3. (U) John Tamihere is another obvious omission from the
Labour list. Suspected of financial misconduct over his
dealings with a Maori trust (ref B), Tamihere was cleared by
the Serious Fraud Office of any wrongdoing, but an
investigation into the dealings of two of his previous
employees is ongoing. In what could be seen either as an act
of defiance or an act of principle, Tamihere has declined a
place on Labour's list, stating that he will either ward off
challenges by the Maori party for his Tamaki Makaurau
electorate seat or be content not to enter Parliament at all.
Tamihere has been unusually quiet in public statements, only
rarely displaying the straight talk and temper that are his
hallmarks as the "red blooded male" of the Labour Party. He
has been angling for a return to his Cabinet portfolios, but
press reports claim PM Clark will not allow him to return to
Cabinet before the election.

What's In A Number?
-------------------

4. (U) Minister of Police George Hawkins, recently the target
of effective Opposition attacks on the state of emergency
police responses, pulled out of the List after it was
announced, protesting his ranking as 25th - the lowest ranked
member of Cabinet. (Note: Hawkins is ranked 11th within
Cabinet.) Despite this move, Hawkins is likely to again win
his Manurewa seat, which he won by almost 13,000 votes in
2002. Labour supporters Shane Jones, Maryan Street, and
David Ching have scored high list rankings - the first two
above a number of sitting MPs. Shane Jones has distinguished
himself as the Waitangi Fisheries Tribunal Chairman, and
Maryan Street is an Employment Relations Manager as well as a
former Labour Party President. Labour President Mike Williams
said Chinese New Zealander Steven Ching's inclusion reflected
"the changing face of New Zealand," noting that Ching's
placement as number 42 on the list "should assure the
business leader a seat in the House."

7. (C) Comment: While careful leaks indicated which fresh
faces were to be added to the List, Labour may have ruffled
some feathers internally with its final ranking of sitting
MPs. Clark's prowess at damage control, however, should
insure that there is no long-term damage to the party's
support. She has already bluntly stated the party line that
the ranking of Maori MPs was due to their seniority, and not
pressure from the nascent Maori Party. By putting forth a
list that by its nature assumes an increase in Labour's
representation after the election, Labour appears to believe
it has fended off successfully Opposition attacks on
education, health and crime policies, and has begun to
consolidate its plan of attack.

Swindells

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