Reshuffle: The Losers and the Unranked

Where the last two posts were about the MP’s who have been given positions in Labour’s Top 10, and 11-17 respectively, this post will be about those MPs who have found themselves unranked in Andrew Little’s new lineup. The title may be misleading, and appear to some that I am suggesting that all unranked MPs have ‘lost’ in this reshuffle. This is not true.

Firstly, almost all of Labour’s new intake of MPs remain unranked, as well as the relatively new additions of Poto Williams and Meka Whaitiri. This is not to say that these MPs have lost out. As new MPs, it is unsurprising that they remain unranked until the Party, and the Leader has a better idea of their abilities and skills in Parliament and as MPs in general. They have all been given their own portfolio positions too, with Meka Whaitiri retaining water, Poto Williams managing the Voluntary and Community Sector Portfolio, and Peeni Henare Adrian Rurawhe and Jenny Salesa picking up Tourism, Civil Defence and Employment, Skills and Management respectively. Perhaps the only one who may be bitter is Stuart Nash. While Nash holds the relatively heavy portfolios of Energy and Forestry, as well as Land Information and Statistics, he remains unranked while Carmel Sepuloni and Kelvin Davis, who both entered Parliament in 2008, lost their seats in 2011 and regained them in 2014, the same as Nash, have both been elevated to the front bench. This may be that Andrew Little saw more potential in Sepuloni and Davis, or saw gaps that matched their skill sets. However, there are a few question marks around Stuart Nash including his contacts with right wing figures such as Simon Lusk, his ambition for the leadership, and his loyalty.  Beginning this term as an unranked MP may be a hint for Nash to keep himself in check. Overall however, Labour’s new MPs have some good positions and plenty of work to do in their first term in Parliament. Some of them have the potential to go far in the party, particularly Peeni Henare and Jenny Salesa, both of whom seem very promising.

MPs who have really lost out in this reshuffle are Clayton Cosgrove and Damien O’Connor – in particular Cosgrove. Having sat comfortably in Labour’s Top 10 for the last few years, it must be a shock for Cosgrove to find himself unranked in Andrew Little’s new lineup. There could be several reasons for this. Cosgrove has not really made much of an impact as Labour’s spokesperson for State Owned Assets – a portfolio of paramount significance in the last term. As well as this, Cosgrove has been identified as a particularly unruly caucus member in the past, with a tendency towards undermining the Leader. He could have channelled this into his performance in Parliament but hasn’t really made an impact, and this could be why he has lost his high ranking. He retains the SOE portfolio and has picked up Revenue – so it’s not all bad. Some people in Labour will probably be pleased that he’s off the front bench, and his demotion could also be seen as a nudge towards the door.

The same could be said for Damien O’Connor. Although he often gets airtime talking about the Government’s Primary Industries record, and seems to know quite a lot about his portfolio, O’Connor is rarely able to score points and was also probably an agitator within caucus last term. Like Cosgrove, it could be that he is being steered towards exiting Parliament too.

Sue Moroney has fallen from grace too, in an interesting turn of events. Despite Moroney backing Little in the Leadership election, she is now unranked and has lost her Social Development Portfolio to Carmel Sepuloni. Despite taking on the important ACC Portfolio, Moroney will probably be disappointed. However, she also did not make much of an impact in Parliament. One thing about this though – the Women’s Affairs Portfolio should not be held by an unranked member. Regardless of Moroney’s ability in it, Women’s Affairs is frequently shunted to the side by Labour, and National. Despite relating to around 50% of the population it has not been held in high regard while Labour has been in opposition. Someone on the front bench, like Jacinda Ardern should have the Women’s Rights portfolio as it is an area that Labour needs to be focused on.

Kris Faafoi and Rino Tirikatene have also dropped down the list. Where olive branches were offered to others in Grant Robertson’s support base, these two are unranked. This could possibly be due to a failure to make any impact – it could just be that I don’t read the Wellington newspapers but I have never seen either MP making any meaningful marks on the National Government. Faafoi has the Commerce Portfolio, which could be an important one where he can start to be noticed.

Trevor Mallard and Ruth Dyson are both reaching the end of their careers and will probably not be surprised by their unranked positions. Mallard will be comfortable as Assistant Speaker and will get to retain his prized Animal Rights Portfolio, and Sports and Recreation. He might want one term in Government to get to be speaker but otherwise will be preparing to leave. The same goes for Dyson, who remains spokesperson for Senior Issues and Disabilities, both portfolios she seems to enjoy. She will be looking at leaving Parliament soon as well and will be comfortable with her place in Andrew Little’s caucus.

Clare Curran appears not to have moved much. She has the niche ICT and Broadcasting Portfolios as well as Open Government, all three of which she seems to really like doing, and is very knowledgeable about. Unfortunately, these are not issues that huge points can be scored on the Government with, and so Curran should concentrate on developing good sound innovative Labour Policy on these issues.

Those at the bottom of Andrew Little’s new caucus lineup seem to fall into three categories: the new MPs who can go on to prove themselves, the ineffective MPs who need to start being effective or get out, and the MPs who seem comfortable enough to remain where they are. It’s important to note that Little in continuing to give these MPs responsibilities in areas like Commerce and Energy, where they can be effective if they work hard. Overall, while some may be smarting from demotions, Little seems to have created a fair and well balanced cabinet. He’s shown that he’s not afraid to cull some of the more unreliable or harmful figures in his caucus, and has demonstrated that he is bringing renewal at all levels of the caucus, with those on the way up passing those on the way down. Labour finally seems to have an ambitious team to take it into the future.

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