Friday, 12 September 2008

A Woman's Place: National's electorate candidates

I had a look at National's party list, and the place of women on it, back in August. For those who aren't keen to make with the clicky, my conclusion was that while National talked up the diversity (by which they meant "we can haz sum candidates who is not older white men") it was pretty much a thin veneer. National's caucus after the election, based on the party list, is likely to still be well over two-thirds male, and it's prospective Cabinet (top 20 list placings) is even worse (only 4 women make the grade).

So what are the chances that their electorate selections will even those numbers up a smidge?

Not that great. Not as bad as I initially thought.

National currently holds 30 electorates, of which a grand total of 5 (five) are held by women:
  • Judith Collins (Clevedon, now standing in the re-jigged and re-named Papakura)
  • Jacqui Dean (Otago, now called Waitaki)
  • Jo Goodhew (Aoraki, now called Rangitata)
  • Sandra Goudie (Coromandel)
  • Anne Tolley (East Coast)
I was a bit surprised by that. It's only 17% of their electorate seats.

Anyway, the above are all standing again, and I think it's pretty safe to say they'll all win their seats again too, barring scandal of a supreme nature. Tolley won East Coast off Labour's Moana Mackey, who is challenging her this year, but I don't think anyone is picking a reversal there anytime soon.

What about new National electorate MPs, either in constituencies where their is no incumbent, or where the swing to National might leave Labour's representative hanging?

No incumbent:
Christchurch Central (previously held by Tim Barnett, Labour) - Labour's Tim Barnett is retiring, but their Brendon Burns will be pretty hard for Nicky Wagner to beat. She's in on the list anyway.

Dunedin South (previously held by David Benson-Pope, Labour) - Clare Curran must surely replace her erstwhile Labour colleague, despite all the right wing blog beat-up that he will run as an independent.

(previously won by Taito Phillip Field for Labour) - I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting Mita Harris can win over Labour's Su'a William Suo.

(previously held by Mark Gosche, Labour) - National candidate's Sam Lotu-Iiga, is likely to suffer from the unpopular moves of his Citizens and Ratepayers ticket on the Auckland City Council, and UnitedFuture's Denise Krum may suck up enough of his Christian votes to give Labour's Carol Beaumont some measure of safety. Certainly Mark Gosche, who is immensely popular in the area, is actively campaigning with her which has got to be a good sign.

(new seat) - Pansy Wong is standing here, after some time on National's list plugging away dutifully in Auckland Central. Kenneth Wang from Act may possibly run her hard, but I think she'll win it.

Palmerston North
(previously held by Steve Maharey for Labour) - Labour's Iain Galloway-Lees would seem a shoe-in, but they did turf out Red Heather in last year's mayoral race. Malcolm Plimmer is the National candidate.

(previously held by Paul Swain, Labour) - Chris Hipkins is likely to hold the seat for Labour, against National's Richard Whiteside.

(previously Rakaia, held by Brian Connell for National) - Amy Adams is expected to retain the seat for National.

(previously held by Bob Clarkson for National)- Current polling, and current scandals, suggest National candidate Simon Bridges is like to see off Winston Peters.

Wellington Central
(previously held by Marion Hobbs for Labour) - Especially given all National's threats on the jobs of public servants, you'd have to think their candidate, Stephen Franks, was a rather long shot. Surely. I mean, it's Stephen Franks.

Did you notice, there are only two retirements from National's sitting electorate MPs, and both were outsiders in the caucus (Clarkson and Connell). They're doing their renewal via the list it seems, rather than finding fresh faces for their safe electorates. One has been replaced by a man (Bridges in Tauranga), and the other by a woman (Adams in Selwyn, aka the new Rakaia).

Could change from Labour to National:
Hamilton West - Martin Gallagher is the incumbent for Labour and has been put right at the margins of electability on the Labour list, no doubt as a spur to keep the seat. If he doesn't then National's Tim McIndoe will take it.

- Labour's man in town, Mark Burton, seems to have lost his zest for politics in recent years and boundary changes are agin him and his ilk, so National's Louise Upston could be in.

West-Coast Tasman
- I actually think Damien O'Connor is pretty safe, but National seems to think otherwise. List MP Chris Auchinvole is their candidate.

- Like the Hamilton seats, this has been a bit back and forth in recent years. If Steve Chadwick doesn't hold it for Labour, she will be replaced by National's Todd McLay.

Auckland Central
- I'll be interested to see how National's candidate Nikki Kaye performs at the Suffrage Eve Debate next week, and if she has good on the ground organisation maybe she could shift Judith Tizard, but I think Kaye would need the poll swing National had two months ago, not the closing gap they are facing now. If Labour somehow pull off a win in November, and Kaye remains committed to the electorate for 2011, she could face a more advantageous position then.

Thus of the five electorates National seems to think they can take off Labour in November, they've put female candidates in two of them. Putting that together with the fact that they'll definitely add two women electorate MPs to the existing five, Adams in Selwyn and Wong in Botany, it almost seems like National might be making a conscious effort to increase the number of women they have in electorate seats. At best (for them) National could have nine of their female MPs holding electorate seats, almost double the number they have now, and a significant increase from 17% to 26%.

Women in un-winnable seats:
A quarter of National's unwinnable constituency candidates are women. They have put 6 women and 18 men up in seats that are safe for other parties. National don't seem to be contesting the Maori seats at all, so that means the figures won't add up nicely (and of course there will be some disagreement with what I think is safe, marginal and likely to change hands).

I note that 5 of these 6 women are already National MPs, and all are likely to get in on the list. Not so for the men.

It looks as if National are making an effort here, and because they are starting from a pretty low base the improvement appears to be significant. However I'm starting to wonder about National's much vaunted electorate selection process. Party hacks always claim that head-office has little influence, but there are quite a few percentages all coming out around the 25% mark, for women's representation. Consider this:

  • The entire National party list of 73, 25% XXers
  • Possible post election electorate seat MPs for National, 26% female
  • In unwinnable electorate seats, 25% of National candidates are women
Maybe it's all a coincidence. Hmmmm. Maybe I should stop doing maths late at night...

Other posts in this series to date:
- Act's Party List
- Green's Party List
- National's Party List
- The Maori Party's candidates (list and electorate)
- Labour's Party List
- UnitedFuture's Pary list


homepaddock said...

I was on National's list ranking committee (I say that to delcare an interest/bias not to divulge any secrets because I'm bound by confidentiality).

Sticking to publicly available information - our gender imbalance is historical, because as you point out most seats are held by men and there were only two electorate MPs who retired.

National's rules enable the board to prevent someone standing in the first place but once s/he's through pre-selection it's up to the members in an electorate to select their candidate.

Knowing how independent National people are I'm sure any interference from HQ would count against a candidate :)

Several women stood for seat selections this time and missed out - that's democracy in the electorates not an anti-woman agenda at either electorate or board level.

The MPs are the public face of the party so you can be excused for concentrating on that but women are well represented in the voluntary wing. The president and three of the five regional chairs are women so are many of the electorate chairs.

There is definitely no anti-woman agenda in the party which proudly claims NZ's first female PM.

Also numbers are only one measure and quality is more important than quantity :)

Julie said...

Thanks for the insights homepaddock, it's interesting to hear about it from your perspective. I'm particularly glad to hear that women are well represented in the party organisation, I hope that they are acknowledged and rewarded for the roles they fill.

homepaddock said...

Julie, at risk of sounding like Pollyanna, John Key, other MPs, Judy Kirk (the president) and board are very good at aknowledging the work or volunteers and letting us know they appreciate it.

In spite of what some may think, National's strength isn't big money, it's the many grass roots members.

And ss with any other voluntary organisation, we're not in it for personal reward.

We just hope that National will be able to lead a government that will help make a happier, healthier, better educated, more secure, more prosperous, cleaner, greener ... country.

Julie said...

'dock, I didn't mean to imply that National was any worse than any other party (or indeed any other organisation with volunteers) when it comes to recognising the work of women. I think there's a widespread problem that women's unpaid work is often taken for granted, and can think of instances I've seen (on the left rather than the right) where "bring a plate" seems to somehow become a ladies only practice, where men retire to the deck for a brew after dinner while the women clean up, things like that. I've noticed it changing, significantly, since I was younger, and men do put their hands up and there is more acknowledgement of the previously invisible work, but we still have some distance to go. I don't imagine any political party wing has it right yet, but in time we all will :-)

Craig Ranapia said...

There's also a non-gendered point to be made about candidates in so-called "unwinnable" seats:

1) Under MMP, even candidates that don't have a shit show of taking the electorate vote are still critical standard bearers for the party vote. As the Greens learned so vividly last time, a few hundred party votes in each electorate do matter.

2) I don't know how it works on your side of the fence, but candidates who work their arses off and run a professional team do get noticed. And it can be a factor if you're looking for a winnable list place -- or selection in a less marginal electorate -- next time out.

3)And political history is full of "unwinnable" seats that turn out to be anything but. Six months before the '05 election, if you'd bet me that Jim Sutton would lose his seat I'd be tasting your coffee to see how "Irish" it was. :)dymzxor

Hugh said...

Craig, seconded - running a doomed electorate campaign in order to impress the party bigwigs and have a chance at a marginal seat next time round is a time-honoured political tradition and one for which we can thank the parliamentary careers as such masterful politicians as David Lange and Tony Blair, among others.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

Heh... I had no idea Tony Blair was so esteemed in left-wing circles nowadays. :) But, OTOH, I don't think anyone will be shedding any crocodile tears over the departure of Messers Field, Benson-Pope and Connell from their safe seats.

BTW, I didn't mean to come across as sounding snotty or condescending towards Jo Goodhew. Her winning Aoraki off Jim Sutton is a reminder that pundits can get fixated on polls, speculating over coalitions, and the 'game-playing' element of the national campaign, and forget that getting it right on the ground makes a difference.

Goodhew worked damn hard, for a long time, and just got the basics right -- shake every baby, kiss every hand, know your community. And in a seat which, if my memory serves, both parties were picking that Sutton would hold with a reduced majority.

Hugh said...

Craig, saying Lange and Blair were masterful politicians should not be seen as an endorsement of their policies.

Although when I consider Lange's second-term wig-out perhaps 'masterful' is not the right word.