New boss rewards best performers
National’s shadow Cabinet announced by Christopher Luxon yesterday looks set to be more liberal, more centrist and, crucially, more effective than its predecessors in four years of opposition.
Unencumbered by the factionalism that has been at the heart of disunity in the party, the new leader has delivered on a pledge to select his top team based on merit. He also declined to rank MPs outside the top 20, as is usual, saying they too would be assessed on performance rather than hierarchy.
This corporate-style approach from the former Air New Zealand boss has had the added benefit of bringing the party’s depleted liberal wing to the fore.
Chris Bishop is restored to shadow leader of the House, retains his Covid-19 portfolio and is ranked No.4 (up from 8). Erica Stanford rockets 18 places to No.8 and will also take on Chris Hipkins in the education portfolio, which the Covid Response Minister must struggle to give enough attention to. Deputy leader Nicola Willis retains housing.
Returning Scott Simpson to the climate change portfolio puts National firmly back on the bipartisan track this country needs for policy continuity and certainty on the journey to net zero emissions.
The prior announcement that former leader Simon Bridges has the key finance role is reward for his withdrawal from the leadership contest, but also his political experience and prosecutorial skills. Grant Robertson will get a tougher ride than he has had to date.
Two of the top performers under Judith Collins also feature prominently, with Dr Shane Reti retaining health and ranked No.5, and Simeon Brown, No.9 (up from 19), picking up transport where he can be expected to make as much mileage as he did on law and order.
Collins herself tumbles to No.19, with the research, science, innovation and technology portfolio she showed a passion for as leader.
Bridges’ supporters Paul Goldsmith (12) and Mark Mitchell (14) move into key roles they are well suited to — justice and workplace relations for Goldsmith, and for Mitchell, himself a former cop, the police portfolio which was an area National did well in under Brown.
Louise Upston retains social development, where her duel with Carmel Sepuloni is a healthy one described as a contest of ideas rather than personalities.
Luxon has only assigned the obligatory national security and intelligence role for himself, leaving him free to focus on leadership and the issues of the day.