Ousted Benson-Pope to stay loyal (+video)

Last updated 23:01 03/02/2008
CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post
CALL ME LOYAL: David Benson-Pope has been passed over as the Labour candidate for Dunedin South in favour of Clare Curran but insists he will remain loyal to the party.

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Another Labour MP is out at the next election and more are likely to follow after former Cabinet minister David Benson-Pope lost a messy selection battle.
View video: National has eye on Dunedin

Mr Benson-Pope insisted yesterday that he remained loyal to Labour despite being ousted after a fall from grace.

An elected Labour Party official, Clare Curran, won selection for his Dunedin South seat on Saturday, and a list placing is unlikely.

The vote came ahead of Labour's first caucus meeting of the year today, where MPs are expected to be reminded of the need for discipline.

Mr Benson-Pope yesterday rejected suggestions by National that he would contest the seat against Ms Curran as an independent.

"I value loyalty and I've been a very loyal member of the Labour Party."

Mr Benson-Pope was widely tipped to lose the selection battle after a rocky few years, culminating in his resignation from Cabinet last year over misleading statements about the extent to which he knew about the effective sacking of Environment Ministry staff member Madeleine Setchell over her relationship with National Party chief of staff Kevin Taylor.

He was previously dragged into controversy over claims by former pupils that he bullied them. A police investigation decided there was a prima facie case to answer, but no charges were laid.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday that Mr Benson Pope had been a long-time Labour Party member and was a very loyal and hard working MP. "It is obviously a sad time for him."

Mr Benson-Pope joins a growing list of faces from Labour's ranks who won't be there at the next election, including current and former senior Cabinet ministers Steve Maharey, Marian Hobbs and Paul Swain. Others who are to depart include Dover Samuels, Dianne Yates, Jill Pettis and Ann Hartley.

Speaker Margaret Wilson is expected to announce her decision to quit politics soon.

But Manurewa MP George Hawkins appears to have resisted hints that it may be time to go, and party insiders are not expecting him to relinquish his Manurewa seat.

Mr Benson-Pope was elected to Parliament in 1999 after a 25-year teaching career.

Ms Curran, a former union official, has also been in the headlines, when the State Services Commission investigated the way she came to be contracted at the Environment Ministry.

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A former ministry staff member had claimed Ms Curran was given a contract to be Climate Change Minister David Parker's personal watchdog but this was denied.


- The Dominion Post

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