Editorial: Fresh Labour line-up needs higher profile

As voters, we ought to look at party election lists much closer than we probably do. That applies particularly to the list of the main party out of power.

A governing party is reasonably well known through its ministers' public appearances, only the leader of an opposition party, and its former ministers, are as familiar to voters before an election campaign.

Labour's list published last week for the election in September is headed by three MPs who have made themselves well known. After leader Andrew Little, there are deputy Jacinda Ardern, finance spokesman Grant Robertson and the energetic Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford who has commanded attention on housing and other Auckland issues. We may take it those four would be the top of a Labour-led government, though unless Labour can lift its support to around 40 per cent, it would need to make room near the top for leaders of the Greens or Winston Peters.

But Labour will be doing its utmost to minimise its need of coalition partners, and it probably will not win power if it needs two of them. Peters must be counted unlikely to go into a government with the Greens. So if Labour is successful, names well down its list will be in the next Parliament. Names such as tax law commentator Deborah Russell, broadcaster Tamati Coffey and former police union secretary, Greg O'Connor, who hopes to deprive National of a sometimes crucial supporter, Peter Dunne, by winning the Ohariu seat.

But it is the top 10 or 20 on the list that need to be better known. They would be likely to comprise the cabinet if Labour leads a government. After Little, Ardern, Robertson and Twyford, the highest ranking names are the little-known Megan Woods, education spokesman Chris Hipkins, Carmel Sepuloni, who is often seen but seldom heard, and David Clark, David Parker and Stuart Nash.

Clark and Nash both impress as potential top flight ministers, Parker was a very good minister in the previous Labour Government. Fellow remnants of that Government, Damien O'Connor, Ruth Dyson and Trevor Mallard are well down the list. Mallard, who nearly lost the Hutt South seat at the last election, will not contest it again. Standing only on the list, he could choose not to return unless Labour is in a position to govern, in which case he wants the Speaker's chair.

Some of the names in the top 20, which presumably means they have cabinet potential, are completely new. Priyanca Radhakrishnan (11), Jan Tinetti (14), Willow-Jean Prime (16) and Kiri Allan (20) are all candidates in marginal or unwinnable seats and Labour clearly wants them in Parliament whatever happens. Prime stood in the Northland byelection when Labour virtually gave its vote to Peters.

It is a fresh-looking line-up, led by MPs who have been in opposition long enough to have won their spurs and feel they are more than ready to move into the Beehive. Their leader is not polling strongly so they need to present a team. Among their top 10 they appear to have more than enough talent. Now they must work out how to project it.

- NZ Herald

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