O'Connor, Smith big movers in MPs' rating

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 03/12/2013

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Nelson MP Nick Smith and West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor did well but Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street fared poorly in the latest Trans Tasman Roll Call.

Finance Minister Bill English was rated politician of the year and given a rating of 9 out of 10, with Prime Minister John Key not far behind on 8.5. Dr Smith was in the front rank of the rest, improving from 5.5 to 7.

Trans Tasman, an independent political analysis bureau which ranks MPs once a year, said Dr Smith's roller-coaster ride in politics continued with a return to Cabinet and "his beloved conservation portfolio" this year.

He is also housing minister and it said he had brought a new vigour and energy to the housing portfolio "which was just what Key demanded".

"Smith has certainly thrown himself back into the fray," it said.

Dr Smith told the Nelson Mail that Trans Tasman tended to be quite "Beltway" or Wellington-focused compared to some other groups that rated politicians.

He was pleased his ranking had improved, but more importantly he thought National was "in pretty good shape", he said.

"I've been in the National caucus room for 23 years - those divisions that occurred in the Muldoon years left scars and baggage for 20 years. It's only really since Key and English have been running National that I've felt that those deep differences have been resolved."

National was now genuinely Centre-Right, "not hard Right in the mould of Ruth Richardson and Don Brash, but nor that sort of popular centralism that Muldoon personified. There's a huge level of confidence and comfort within National that we know what we're on about."

Ms Street was dismissive of her 3.5 ranking, up from 3 last year.

Trans Tasman said the Labour spokeswoman for state services and associate spokeswoman on foreign affairs, disarmament and arms control was making little impact.

"Barely landed a punch in health. Clever, but doesn't go out of her way to show it," it said.

In a brief response Ms Street said she couldn't take the armchair critics too seriously, "especially when the top prize went to someone who has bungled the asset sales process and shown such disregard for the public referendum".

She has unsuccessfully challenged Dr Smith for the Nelson seat and this is her third term as a list MP. The 58-year-old said she had put her name forward to run for Nelson again next year.

"That has yet to go through the local process before it is final. I cannot confirm whether I will stand again in 2017 - that is too far away for me to decide yet. But it might be time for me to move on by then and let others come through."

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Mr O'Connor was one of Labour's improvers, rising to 6 from 5 last year and described as being a valuable member who helps balance the caucus and says what he thinks.

"Good Right-wing Labour man, stuck to the Government over Fonterra's crisis and works hard on biosecurity," Trans Tasman said.

Mr O'Connor told the Mail that there were more than 60,000 opinions in his electorate on how he was performing and the only real judgment came once every three years.

He said Labour had every reason to be optimistic and there was a positive feeling within the party, buoyed by its success in the Christchurch East byelection at the weekend, but it wasn't taking anything for granted. "We will be working very hard over the next 12 months to win the next election."

Told of Dr Smith's optimistic comments about National Mr O'Connor laughed and said, "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he."

Two others with West Coast connections also did well in Trans Tasman's comments, although neither achieved a high rating out of 10. National list MP Chris Auchinvole, formerly West Coast-Tasman electorate MP, went from 4 to 5. He was called a good speaker in the House and "one of Parliament's nice guys" who does good work in select committees.

Mr Auchinvole, 68, has said he'll stand down at the next election.

Green Party list MP Kevin Hague, who lives near Greymouth, was described as a very clever man ahead of his time: "Brilliant speaker - knows health sector politics backwards." But he was still only given a ranking of 6, up from 5 last year.

Established in 1968, Trans Tasman Political Alert delivers weekly news analysis from Wellington and Canberra. It says it provides an inside view of political developments on both sides of the Tasman, with its editors having no allegiance to any political party or any other outside lobby groups.

- The Nelson Mail

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