Finlayson judged top politician

Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012
Chris Finlayson
ROBERT CHARLES
Chris Finlayson

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Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson has been named politician of the year by Trans-Tasman, beating off challenges from Prime Minister John Key and Green co-leader Russel Norman.


To view the press release click here.

To view the full list of rankings click here.


The judges in the political newsletter's annual "roll-call" said Mr Finlayson, who is also Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister, had "given away a national park to Maori, and no-one seems to mind much. That's pretty good going".

They gave him eight out of 10 for his performance this year - the same as Mr Key and Dr Norman - noting "his disdain for his political opponents is palpable - one of the sharpest debaters in Parliament".

His increasing stature as a politician and member of the inner circle was evident when Mr Key gave him responsibility for the Labour portfolio when Kate Wilkinson stepped down after the Pike River royal commission.

After a year of stumbles and "brain fades", Mr Key slipped from nine, to eight out of 10. His Government is still riding high in the polls, although he must "improve political management and start seeming like he enjoys the job next year", Trans-Tasman said.

Dr Norman had kept the Greens higher in the polls now than on election night and had widened the policy platform far beyond "greenie" issues. He "outclassed [Labour's] David Shearer as an opposition leader . . . As John Key said, ‘Russel Norman is eating David Shearer's lunch'."

In rankings leaned heavily in favour of National, Trans-Tasman rated 10 Cabinet ministers ahead of the best Labour front-bench MPs, David Parker and Phil Goff, who each scored 6.5.

The only other opposition MP to get a high score was NZ First leader Winston Peters on seven.

The standout worst in the Cabinet was Education Minister Hekia Parata on two, down from 6.5 last year, after a series of problems including a U-turn on smaller class sizes and a botched plan with Christchurch schools.

She had "moved past the point of her competence . . . tough and smart, but not politically astute".

But the newsletter saved its strongest condemnation for ACT leader and Regulatory Reform Minister John Banks, giving him zero out of 10.

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"Banks has overseen the complete destruction of ACT's political brand, taking over where Don Brash left off," it said. "Essentially now National's 60th MP and a lame duck one as well."

After Labour's recent leadership tussles, Mr Shearer drops from five to four out of 10 and was rated "a great disappointment".

"A decent man whose wider instincts for politics have proved sadly lacking to date."

To add insult to injury, Trans-Tasman ranked his erstwhile rival, David Cunliffe - whom Mr Shearer has dismissed to the back benches for disloyalty - slightly higher at 4.5 although that was down from six last year.

It said he "ensured his ambition and ego kept him in the headlines and Labour as a weakened political party . . . Should really get over his ego and get on with his job".

Last year's Politician of the Year, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, slipped from nine to 7.5 as the pressures of trying to rebuild Christchurch started to tell.

Paula Bennett rose and was "greatly admired as the former beneficiary cracking down on welfare recipients", while Foreign Minister Murray McCully's role in the botched reform of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry saw his score go from eight to 6.5.

Of the ministers outside the Cabinet, Chester Borrows was the pick, lifting his score from six to 6.5. He was described as being "ready to step up to the next level".

On Labour's front bench, Mr Parker was one of the few to improve, although he should "leave the wacky stuff to the Greens and assert himself in putting together some coherent economic policies".

Former leader Mr Goff's "statesmanlike performance and ability to play grown-up politics, while the rest seem stuck in the sixth form common room" saw his score rise from six to 6.5.

On Labour's back benches, Chris Hipkins, Clare Curran and Darien Fenton lifted their scores.

Except for Mr Peters, all the NZ First MPs scored less than five.

Of the sitting National MPs from last year who returned, 20 boosted their score, 18 went down, and 11 stayed the same.

In Labour's ranks nine boosted their score, 12 went down and eight stayed the same.

THE BEST AND THE WORST

FIVE OF THE BEST

Christopher Finlayson: 8/10

"Has made big strides this year as one of the most effective ministers."

Russel Norman: 8/10

"Looks and sounds like the leader of a much larger, more mainstream party."

John Key: 8/10 ‘The PM has a party united behind him and his policies (unlike his opponents)."

Bill English: 7.5/10 "Supplied the ballast to complement the effervescent Key in the coalition."

Gerry Brownlee: 7.5/10 "Has one of the most difficult jobs in Cabinet."

FIVE OF THE WORST

John Banks: 0/10 "Even if National did not run against him in Epsom again he would still lose."

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (National list): 1/10 "There to make up the numbers at this stage."

Rajen Prasad (Labour list): 1/10 "His presence in Parliament remains a mystery, but he seems to enjoy it."

Hekia Parata: 2/10 "Had difficulty answering questions when they moved off her prepared script."

Catherine Delahunty (Green list): 2/10 "A nice, well-intentioned but slightly barmy hippy."

- The Dominion Post

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