John Armstrong 's Opinion

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: King won't disappoint

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Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / APN
Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / APN

Jobs, health, education and housing - along with economic growth (or the relative lack of it), those are the five big issues which Labour will hammer in the run-up to next year's election.

With David Parker safely ensconced in the shadow finance role, David Shearer's reshuffle tackles the first four priorities. The net result should be to dramatically lift the calibre of Labour's firepower both inside and outside Parliament.

Handing deputy leader Grant Robertson the shadow portfolio of employment matters and training will harness one of the party's top performers to what may well be shaping as the No 1 election issue - jobs.

It will also make for an intriguing contest as a potential future Labour leader goes head-to-head with a potential future National leader, Steven Joyce.

Annette King's return to the health portfolio may have a "back to the future" look about it. She would have been happy staying in her housing role.

But Labour had made absolutely no headway against Health Minister Tony Ryall in four years in Opposition. Ms King was asked to take on health because she remains one of Labour's most hard-working, effective and liked MPs. She won't disappoint.

As expected senior whip Chris Hipkins gets his big chance to establish himself in the party's top echelon by picking up education. His job will be made considerably easier by the Education Minister Hekia Parata having become something of a pariah figure in the portfolio.

The tougher task for Mr Hipkins will be writing policy that also appeals to parents - rather than just satisfying education sector lobby groups.

Sensibly, Mr Shearer has given the housing portfolio to an Auckland MP, given Auckland has the most chronic case of housing unaffordability.

Mr Twyford is seen as a more than useful Opposition politician who should be able to give National some serious grief. However, with Labour having released its broad policy to build 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years, the pressure will be on Mr Twyford to prove without doubt that the Labour scheme is viable.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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