An outgoing National List MP has slammed the media’s portrayal of his comments on the diversity of National’s top rankings, claiming it painted him as a “toy-throwing misogynist”.
Michael Woodhouse, a National MP since 2015, this month withdrew from the party’s list in reaction to his lowly placing. The list demotion meant his only way back into Parliament was to win the Labour-held Dunedin electorate.
In an interview with the Otago Daily Times after his exit, he said there was a contest between “diversity and experience and in my case, diversity won”.
“Frankly, there is a group of hard-working male MPs with secure seats who have been given positions in the mid-50s which puts them at a very, very significant disadvantage.”
This was reported as a jab at National’s high number of female MPs in the party’s top-ranking positions.
Media subsequently reported Woodhouse claimed he’d missed out on his National place because he was a male, something Woodhouse later rebuffed as untrue.
Talking on the Mike Hosking Breakfast Show, Woodhouse was asked why he went public with his thoughts on the Party’s diversity - to which he said his quotes weren’t reported fairly.
“I think what’s been reported is a mischaracterisation of what I said, I have never said being male cost me a higher list place,” the former MP said.
“In fact, when I spoke to [the Otago Daily Times] I never even mentioned being male.”
Later in the interview, he agreed with the sentiment the media had done him a disservice in a couple of areas.
“And that’s unfortunate because now they’ve portrayed me as some toy-throwing misogynist - and that’s very unfair and untrue.”
Woodhouse said the party had trumpeted its list’s diversity, which has a majority of females in the top 40, something he said he took delight in.
However, he also observed there were “other things in play here, and I made a few comments about them”.
He said there was a challenge in getting more diverse candidates in winnable blue seats.
“I think there has been a tendency for people more traditionally conservative to see their natural home in Act,” he told Mike Hosking Breakfast. “Diversity [isn’t an issue] materially, but it’s a consequence of that trend that it’s been harder for National to have more diverse candidates in winnable places.”
Woodhouse said being dropped so low in the list was something he’d been reflecting on and that he’d discussed previous demotions with National Party leader, Christopher Luxon.
But the pair haven’t talked about such matters since March last year.
Woodhouse said he admires Luxon’s skills and wasn’t angry about being dropped - just disappointed.
“But that’s life, move on.”
Luxon laughs at toxic diversity allegations
Christopher Luxon dismissed the allegations that MPs were missing out on top rankings because of their gender.
He spoke on the AM Show this morning about the way Woodhouse’s comments had been reported and laughed when asked if he was pushing men out of the top-ranking list positions.
“Absolutely not, we’ve got a fantastic list,” the party leader said.
“It balances experienced, seasoned MPs with brand new talent with new skills and experiences they’re bringing into, potentially, our team we take into the election.”
It was pointed out to Luxon that Nicola Grigg and Nancy Lu were ranked 19 and 20 on National’s list - much higher than the veteran Woodhouse.
Luxon replied that the list was one with an election focus first.
He said if Grigg and Lu were men, they’d still retain the same positions on his list.
“It’s a range of factors our List Committee considers - it ranges from different skills, different abilities and experiences to get across to communities across New Zealand.”
Luxon observed National had a “terrible” previous election result and wanted to make sure the party was reflective of all the country’s communities.
“After the election, I’ll then form a Cabinet and that decision will very much be based on performance, about what they can do in the job and how they go about doing it,” he said.
“With respect to the list, we’re balancing seasoned MPs and other MPs who have winnable seats.”
The party’s latest lineup has some other big changes.
Stuart Smith, previously ranked 19, was dumped to 56, just ahead of Sam Uffindell at 57.
Both are likely to win their seats, and re-enter Parliament. Simon O’Connor, ranked 35 on the 2020 election list has been dumped to 54. He is now in the fight of his political life to win the Auckland seat of Tāmaki against an insurgent challenge from Act’s Brooke van Velden.
The party’s top 20 is largely unchanged from the lineup announced earlier this year. However, the top 40 is very different.
There are 21 women and 19 men in the top 40.