Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Battle of the egos in seat reshuffle

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Paula Bennett quickly put her name down for a new safe seat. Photo / Janna Dixon
Paula Bennett quickly put her name down for a new safe seat. Photo / Janna Dixon

The new boundaries for electorates for the next election are out. Under MMP, the number of electorates won or lost doesn't matter in terms of who governs. On top of that, if an electorate MP loses their seat they usually come back as a list MP on the same salary for less work.

It's the ego pecking order in Parliament that matters to MPs. The MPs who win marginal seats rank highest in status, followed by the other electorate MPs. These MPs know they have their own power base, so aren't beholden to party bosses, as are list MPs, to keep their jobs.

List MPs from the Greens and NZ First, which got over the 5 per cent threshold, deserve their legitimacy. But list MPs from the two main parties are just voting fodder. And list MPs who should have won an electorate seat but didn't have an unspoken pariah status for letting the team down.

Maybe the lowest rated are the small-party MPs gifted their seats by National in the hope they'd bring at least one other MP, but who then didn't deliver.

Their self-important strutting irritates everybody.

The electorate boundaries happened in other parts of the country of course but only in Auckland did it have any impact. The Wellington chattering elites have been prattling for weeks that to create a new coalition buddy for National, the only new seat created had to be gifted by John Key to Colin Craig's Conservative Party.

It took Paula Bennett only seconds after the boundary announcement to know she was going to lose her current seat next election. Within 20 minutes she had a press release out saying the Prime Minister said she could have the new safe centre-right North Harbour seat. So much for cunning party plans.

Conservative leader Colin Craig was left forlorn, piteously hinting that any seat would be fine, really. The Wellingtonians are now saying Murray McCully will have to give him his seat instead. The East Coast Bays MP said he'd not been consulted, which probably means he's in bargaining mode. The ambassadorship in Washington is a prestigious retirement job - ask Jim Bolger and Mike Moore.

Bennett's desertion from her old seat will certainly mean her last election's opponent, Carmel Sepuloni, will romp home in the renamed Kelston seat. Carol Beaumont is now going to knock Sam Lotu-Iiga out of redrawn Maungakiekie. Labour's two likely Auckland gains will be won by women.

One woman loses though. The influx of the new rich into the central city hub has officially turned Auckland Central blue. The battle of women in Auckland Central is over. In a seat where the Alliance's left winger Sandra Lee defeated then Labour's Richard Prebble, National's Nikki Kaye is now the local MP for life. Her Labour opponent, Jacinda Ardearn, will remain with the dubious honour of being Auckland's most prominent list MP. And that's politics.

- Herald on Sunday

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