Editorial: Two different ways to do it

19:46, Mar 10 2014

How seamlessly the baton for National's Invercargill electorate candidacy passed from Eric Roy to Sarah Dowie.

In Labour's case, the baton was perhaps more of a blunt instrument. After a rather more nakedly gladiatorial contest it was Lesley Soper who at the weekend emerged holding it.

Straight away we can cheerfully declare the obvious. For once both the main-party candidates for the Invercargill seat will be women. With all due respect to the Greens' David Kennedy, it's tempting to call this an estrogen-enhanced election for Invercargill.

Ms Dowie, a local commercial and environmental solicitor and first-time candidate, emerged not only as the Nats' choice but also as the sole nominee.

Very tidy.

By contrast, Ms Soper's victory over fellow contender Michael Gibson, in both the floor and panel votes, concluded what might be called a more openly robust selection process.


Though it was really an inelegantly reanimated one.

Ms Soper had also, initially, been the sole nominee.

But when sitting MP Mr Roy's decision to step down was announced the Labour hierarchy decided to re-set the process and Mr Gibson emerged as an alternative.

Very untidy.

Ms Soper gets full marks for political survival within Labour's often-churning innards. She has twice served in Parliament, both times getting there as a result of her list ranking enabling her to fill a vacancy. After several tries, she's never been a successful electorate candidate.

So it's hardly surprising that she said afterwards it was great that members "still" had confidence in her.

The question becomes why Labour is trying to get a different result with the same componentry.

Which brings us right back to Ms Dowie. It's plausible that, quite apart from representative abilities, Ms Soper was deemed a stronger candidate than Mr Gibson to go up against National's female newbie.

Atop which, Ms Soper's emphatically in the David Cunliffe camp. Feel free to discuss among yourselves the extent to which this may have enhanced her chances, or not, given the power plays within Labour.

The bottom line is that while Ms Dowie now has to establish herself with the electorate, Ms Soper has to re-establish herself as something other than a perennial also-ran. Not so much "the devil you know" as "the devil you only think you know".

Meanwhile, the Greens' Mr Kennedy says that the experience of his previous tilt in 2011 has been a giant learning curve and he will take the lessons into this year's campaign.

[Note to selves: we should probably get around to asking him what those lessons are].

All of which still leaves the tantalising question of who will be the National candidate - though it's less a candidacy than a benediction - for Clutha-Southland, following incumbent Bill English's fair-enough decision that his other duties as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister represent, in themselves, enough to be getting on with.

The Southland Times