Comment: After a woeful 13 women made the top 40 in National’s party list at the last election, Christopher Luxon has turned things around, giving women the majority ahead of October.
There are 21 women and 19 men making up the same group in the party’s 2023 list, announced by Luxon and party president Sylvia Wood in Wellington on Saturday.
While that majority is important for fixing the problems created in the 2020 result, the number of women likely to make up the next caucus will flip to the minority as a result of the number of men in winnable seats further down the list rankings.
After the party electorates delivered Luxon and Wood an overwhelming number of Pākehā men in winnable and potentially winnable seats ahead of the election, the list was the last chance for the leader to get the diversity he’s promised would exist under his watch.
Yet, Luxon still only has one Māori MP, Shane Reti, in his top 20, which in all likelihood translates to the make-up of his Cabinet if National gets into government.
Interestingly, it would be coalition partner Act and potentially New Zealand First that would result in any extra Māori representation at the Cabinet table, rather than Luxon’s doing.
Luxon says he’ll make decisions about who will be in Cabinet if National wins and fobbed off a question as to whether anyone below number 25 on his list had any hope of being in the executive.
“It was clear from the ranking offered that I was not part of the leadership’s thinking regarding ministerial positions, so I feel the best thing to do is to stand aside and allow a fresher face into the caucus from the list.” – National MP Michael Woodhouse
Clearly Michael Woodhouse is of the view that the top 20 is where any chance of being a cabinet minister lies and given the spot he got offered was outside of that he decided to pull pin and effectively end his political career.
Woodhouse is a list MP and former minister who has an almost zero chance of winning the safe Labour seat of Dunedin, and on Saturday told Luxon to take him off the list altogether when he found out his ranking.
In a social media post on Saturday afternoon Woodhouse had already accepted that meant his political career was over.
It leaves him with no chance to leave on his own terms and give a valedictory speech, instead saying he was “sad about the process of my departure from political life”.
“It was clear from the ranking offered that I was not part of the leadership’s thinking regarding ministerial positions, so I feel the best thing to do is to stand aside and allow a fresher face into the caucus from the list,” he wrote on Facebook.
To get more women into a caucus of potentially about 45 MPs based on current polling, Luxon and Wood had to put several of its male MPs way down the bottom of the list.
But given they’re all in safe National seats it won’t impact their return to Parliament, the only thing it affects is their egos given it also means they’ll likely end up on the backbenches.
Simon O’Connor, Scott Simpson, Stuart Smith, Sam Uffindell and Tim van de Molen have all been sent a clear message with their rankings from 54 through to 58 – win your seats or you’re gone and if you’re back, you’re nowhere near the decision-making table.
Luxon can claim that being outside the top 20 doesn’t mean you won’t be in the executive, but if that were true the likes of Matt Doocey and Simeon Brown (both in safe National seats and in the top 10) could afford to be wallowing in the mid-50 rankings too.
On Saturday Luxon told reporters the list will “represent more of New Zealand” and ensure there is both experience and new talent at the top of the line-up.
As it stands the top 19 on the list are all current MPs – six of them were ministers in the last National-led government and the rest have political experience but not ministerial.
Luxon and Wood emphasised the top 40 come from a wide range of communities across the country, with candidates of European, Māori, Indian, Cook Island, Samoan, Korean, Filipino, Tongan and Chinese backgrounds represented.
Most of that representation won’t end up anywhere near the executive if National is in government, but at least it will be reflected in the caucus, which has not been the case for the past three years.