Key Points:

Wanted: Business people, successful entrepreneurs, military men, scientists, accountants, farmers, diplomats and even a few lawyers, a Tim Finn or a Sam Neill to revitalise my Government.

"You don't need to spend 10 years debating policy at scruffy Labour Party conferences, be a union activist, campaign organising to get my lesser lights back into electorate seats (I'd rather you didn't). Or help Mike Williams with his whip around to pay back our 2005 election bills.

"All you need is proven talent, passion, an urge to make New Zealand into a dynamic place, an understanding of what social justice means, and the cojones to stand up to your political superiors when necessary and challenge us to stay fresh ourselves after nearly three terms in Government.

"And a profile.

"Mike and I will ready the departure lounge for the has beens and never beens.

"Welcome to a place on Labour's list, and by the way you had better join the party."

That's where Helen Clark should be heading if she really wants to shake up Labour and present an invigorated team for next year's election.

But she is hostage to her belief that party loyalty must play a prominent role when awarding the high rankings on Labour's list that would otherwise persuade more people to leave successful careers for the world of politics.

Clark believes one reason for Labour's success is that it has supported people who "put in the hard yards".

That's why she is publicly backing Phil Twyford, a former Oxfam director and Labour's 2005 candidate for the North Shore seat, as suitable for a higher list ranking in future than some of the MPs who did lose their seats but made it back into parliament because of their list places.

Twyford, ranked at 55, missed out.

Clark in her bones probably believes some of her lesser-light MPs are like nappies, needing frequent changing and for the same reason.

But most of the MPs she has indirectly fingered by her suggestion that Labour might have to rethink its current practice of generally awarding electorate MPs higher list rankings than deserving newcomers have so far proven deaf to her "move on" call.

So far only the former Cabinet Minister Jim Sutton has been pushed out - into the chairmanship of Landcorp. Marion Hobbs, who did win her seat, will retire from politics to have a more exciting time in the British educational world. And Georgina Beyer wants to be the mayor of Wellington to add another notch to her "first transsexual to be this/that" record.

The rest - far too many to isolate here - will ultimately go. But that's not where the problem lies.

It's easy to see why Clark would prefer a Twyford over some of the MPs on her side who lost their seats. But a Twyford over a Sutton?

Sutton lost his seat for three reasons: his rural electorate was in uproar at some of the Labour Government's policies (remember the fart tax, and public access to private lands?)

He was held in some local derision because he had to defend Clark over her speeding motorcade which broke all limits racing through his electorate. And, he was constantly on the road trying to juggle an exceptionally busy international trade portfolio with his agriculture role.

The party should simply have put him on the list and have fielded a fresh contender in his seat.

Twyford fits the politically correct end of the spectrum - leading humanitarian work at Oxfam and taking issue with what the World Trade Organisation was up to.

Sutton, who just wanted to get New Zealand exports into foreign markets in the first place, was a free-marketeer at heart who first won a seat when the Labour Cabinet sported such a strong professional team that David Lange could describe himself as chairman of the board.

The problem Labour faces is that it has become too much hostage to its union backers. More than half of the caucus have been either trade union secretaries or union activists at some stage of their careers. Or they were teachers, lecturers, community workers and nurses.

The caucus boasts a couple of lawyers, a farmer and some with business experience but they are in a clear minority.

Shane Jones, one of the brighter hopes who straddles the business and Maori worlds, is still clipping the ticket by holding on to his previous job as chair of Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Maori Fisheries Commission, as he draws his MP's salary, which is not a good look.

This might not matter if Labour was facing a sclerotic opposition. But National has moved to regenerate its caucus by putting talented outsiders who have made their professional names well up the list. It has a new leader in John Key, and fresh purpose.

The problem Labour has is that although its fresh faces - Stuart Nash (who at least has a business background), Grant Robertson, a former adviser to Clark, and, unionists Andrew Little and Helen Kelly - have much more to offer than some already warming seats, they do not broaden the political catchment.

If Clark really wants to lead a refreshed Government next year she should also purge her Cabinet.

Talented people will not be persuaded to leave successful careers unless they believe they have a fighting chance of getting to the top. Unless Clark clears the pipelines properly, her chances of a historic win will be lessened.