No Clarkson vs Peters battle in Tauranga

Parliament more suited to 'bookworm types'

Last updated 09:10 09/05/2008

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Colourful National MP Bob Clarkson has changed his mind again and now says he will not be standing for re-election in the seat he wrested from Winston Peters.

Despite previously saying he would stand again, the 69-year-old today announced he would leave Parliament at the election and would not contest the seat of Tauranga.

"I stepped right out of my comfort zone when trying to help National win in 2005 and have watched on in horror at the Labour Government's wastefulness and poor decision-making during my three years in Parliament," he said.

"I will leave Parliament at the end of this term knowing I have given good ideas to the party for the leaky homes problem, as well as practical solutions for the challenges facing first-home buyers.

Mr Clarkson beat NZ First leader Winston Peters by just 730 votes in 2005. Mr Peters has yet to confirm whether he will attempt to regain the seat.

Mr Peters has been overseas in his role as foreign minister and today is in London.

His spokesman said Mr Peters did not want to comment at this stage, other than to say that his and NZ First's decisions were not based on what the National Party was doing.

Mr Key said National wanted to win Tauranga and was moving quickly to select a replacement candidate.

Mr Clarkson had made no secret of the fact he felt Parliament was not for him.

Last year the straight-talking MP said he frequently felt out of place in Parliament, which was much better suited to "bookworm types".

He questioned whether he would be able to achieve much as a backbench MP and said that he was also getting on in age and had other things he wanted to achieve.

He has described himself as an "achievement driven guy".

He liked to build things and it was his background in construction that saw him get the nickname "Bob the Builder".

Mr Peters and Mr Clarkson had a tense and acrimonious battle for the Tauranga seat in 2005, with Mr Peters playing a role in the airing of sexual harassment allegations by a former employee of Mr Clarkson.

After Mr Clarkson won the seat, Mr Peters challenged his campaign spending, but Mr Clarkson was found to have stayed within his spending limit.

Mr Clarkson today told NZPA he had decided in January to run again to hurt Mr Peters' chances of winning the seat.

"I decided then, 'bugger, I'd better stay, I'm not going to let that leech on society back in'. I mean God forsake, he lost Tauranga and got double the pay. He's a great one for baubles."

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But since then two or three local businesspeople had approached him about being potential National candidates so he felt a strong candidate could be put forward to beat Mr Peters again.

Mr Clarkson said that when he first entered Parliament he knew it would "be a pain in the neck".

But in 2005 he had been campaigning for party votes for National and had not really expected to beat Mr Peters in the seat.

"We slipped badly and beat Winston. I remember ringing (then party leader) Don Brash and said I was in trouble because I was actually going to win the seat. That was about three weeks before the election and he wondered what the hell was wrong with me," he said.

The House was "offensive" because of the time it took to make progress.

"I knew I was outside my comfort zone and I've sort of suffered ever since. It's very, very hard for a person that's been in business for about 40 or 50 years to actually sit there and listen to the waste going on."

He had worked on party policies with MP Nick Smith on leaky homes and with MP Phil Heatley to help first home buyers.

About $100,000 per house was being spent on administration of the leaky homes scheme.

"That is just diabolically bad... It makes me sick."

National had solutions which he would also help with once outside Parliament.

"I'll get something done and I'll tell you what you'll see some bloody action. I'm sick to death of this wastefulness."

Crown prosecutor Simon Bridges said he would be seeking the nomination as National's candidate in Tauranga.

Mr Bridges said he would be resigning as chairman of the Tauranga National Party in order to do this.

"I look forward to the opportunity of winning the support of National Party delegates. I'll be out there running hard to win," he said.

Mr Bridges said he had enjoyed working with Mr Clarkson who had been a great servant and representative of Tauranga.

"Bob has put National back on the map in Tauranga."

Mr Bridges is been a prominent criminal lawyer in Tauranga, specialising in jury trials.

He was educated in law and arts at the University of Auckland before completing a Masters in Law at Oxford University.

Mr Bridges said he was a long-term National Party member and had held positions at senior levels in the party.

He lives in Mount Maunganui and is married to Natalie.

He has also been on the National Party rules committee, which is will also stand down from to seek the nomination.

The National Party will be advertising the candidate position on Saturday.

- with NZPA

- The Dominion Post

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