Matt McCarten on politics
Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Awards for masterstrokes and meltdowns

Neanderthal silliness came to the surface for Jacinda Adern, left, and Nikki Kaye over Auckland Central. Photo / Natalie Slade
Neanderthal silliness came to the surface for Jacinda Adern, left, and Nikki Kaye over Auckland Central. Photo / Natalie Slade

What a year. What great fodder our MPs have provided for the Matties, my annual awards.

Redemption Prize: Shane Jones. After his nocturnal hobby was exposed I thought he was a goner. But, unlike Chris Carter, he took the humiliation on the chin. If he'd wanted the Manurewa seat, it would have been his. One of the true talents in Parliament. His Tamaki Makarau candidateship against Pita Sharples is gutsy. If he succeeds, he will be prime minister one day.

Slow-Learner Certificate: Pansy Wong. How many times do MPs need to be told to follow the rules? A number of MPs have already destroyed their careers over what amounts to petty theft. Many feel so entitled to squeezing their perks it doesn't occur to them they could lose their careers, their livelihood and their reputation. Extraordinary.

Bad-Taste Award: After Jacinda Adern was selected to challenge Nikki Kaye for Auckland Central, politicians and strategists from both sides excitedly referred to their upcoming contest as the 'battle of the babes'.

After two female prime ministers you'd think we'd have gotten over this Neanderthal silliness.

Giant-Killer Prize: Pete Hodgson is unchallenged here. His latest scalp, Pansy Wong, and his humiliation of Bill English over his housing allowances were masterful. Hodgson even made John Key sweat when he called him out on his blind trusts. Labour will miss him when he retires next year.

New-Blood Award: Hekia Parata came within a whisker of taking Mana and has now made Cabinet in her first term. She has the ruling class gene to go far. Runner-Up: Stephen Joyce. We forget that it's only his first term. The Prime Minister's right-hand man.

No-Prisoners Award: Hone Harawira's reputation as a grassroots fighter for Maori preceded him before he became an MP and it shows. No one can mobilise their community better. If the proposed changes to the seabed and foreshore law go down then he was the backbencher who did it. The more he's attacked, the higher his vote will be up north next election.

Try-Hard Certificate: No matter what Phil Goff does, he can't seem to get traction for his party or himself. Labour must be wondering if they made a mistake by making him leader instead of Annette King. The problem for Goff is he can't seem to connect with his constituency. Every time he talks, you feel he's talking at people rather than to them. Key has this skill down pat. His only salvation could be if Rodney Hide loses his seat, Winston Peters makes it back and the Maori Party changes sides. But he needs all three scenarios. You wouldn't put money on that, would you?

Best-Minister Prize: Most of the ministers have proved themselves more than adequate this year. But the one who has impressed the most is Gerry Brownlie. After having to take a hit and stepping down as deputy leader for English, he's become the fix-it man for the Government. Brownlie turned the Christchurch earthquake into a major public relations plus. When the Pike River disaster happened, Key put this guy in charge. Talk about making lemons into lemonade.

Best-in-the-Game Supreme Award: Everyone assumes it has to be John Key. But my pick goes to Mayor Len Brown. His opponent and the right wing were expected to clean up Auckland big time. Instead, Brown united the left, raised as much money as the other side and gained a huge majority for his team. Even more impressively, he destroyed the right-wing C&R machine. Since he's been mayor, he hasn't put a foot wrong. He's spread around the jobs to include his opponents, but made sure his supporters are in the key posts. If a poll was taken on his performance it would rival the Prime Minister's. Not a bad feat for someone written off six months ago.

- Herald on Sunday

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