Prime Minister-elect John Key has been left with a difficult decision over who should be Parliament's Speaker after the front-runner declined.
United Future leader and centrist Peter Dunne made it clear, publicly and privately, that he did not want to be the man in the middle of Parliament. He wanted to stay in his present job - Revenue Minister - and is expected to retain that portfolio when the cabinet is announced.
That has opened up the field to four main National Party contenders: Lockwood Smith (24 years' experience), John Carter (21 years), Eric Roy (12 years) and Richard Worth (nine years). Dr Smith is believed to have the edge.
But former Speaker and Labour veteran Jonathan Hunt believes that Dr Worth would be the best choice.
And Parliament's bad boy Trevor Mallard rejected both Dr Smith as "laughable" and Dr Worth, preferring either Mr Carter or Mr Roy.
Mr Hunt said Dr Worth was best qualified for the job: "He has a lawyer's training, he will be able to read the standing orders and understand them and follow them.
In my view he is the pick of the crop."
Mr Hunt said the job had changed substantially after MMP.
The Speaker was not only the chair of the Parliamentary Service Commission but as chairman of the business committee the Speaker helped to broker deals between the Government and Opposition on the passage of legislation and the running of Parliament.
"The job of a Speaker is to get the business of the Government through and you do that by being slightly fairer to the other parties than you are to the Government in terms of your ruling.
"You bend over backwards to make sure you run a smooth House and I like to think that I did when I was Speaker."
Mr Mallard said that appointing Dr Smith after the comments he made during the election campaign "would be regarded as an enormous insult".
Dr Smith apologised for saying that Asian seasonal workers had small hands that made them better at picking fruit and that some Pacific Island workers needed to be taught how to use toilets and showers.
Asked for his preference out of Dr Worth, Mr Carter and Mr Roy, Mr Mallard said:
"Two of the people are experienced parliamentarians who have respect on both sides of the House, and they are Eric and John and both of them could do the job."
Mr Mallard rejected the suggestion he was trouble for Speakers and said he had not been thrown out of the House since Mr Hunt was Speaker.By Audrey Young Email Audrey