National's list: The hidden messages

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Though National should gain nine new electorate MPs this election, its list released yesterday suggests that based on current polling it may get only up to three new MPs in off the list.

But if its vote slips below current polling then it could start to lose sitting list MPs.

Nevertheless the list contains a number of subtleties which indicate changes in National's pecking order and  which indicate some new rising stars while there are messages to some sitting MPs that suggest their careers might be coming to an end over the next Parliament.

The big star of the list is the Wellington Central candidate, Nicola Willis, who is unlikely to win the seat (currently held by Labour’s Grant Robertson) but who is ranked at 48 on the list which should be high enough to get in her provided National’s vote does not sink below 46%.

During the past two years, the party has put a strong emphasis on its ethnic candidates, but the two leading ones --- Agnes Loheni who is standing in Mangere and Paulo Garcia standing in New Lynn will need the party to get more than 46 to make it into Parliament.

However senior party sources say that even if they don't make it at the election, it is likely they will come into the next Parliament as retirements begin to take effect within National.

That could place some pressure on the Speaker, David Carter and Attorney General, Chris Finlayson, to retire.

Both are list MPs.

The decision to rank Northland candidate Matt King as the fourth new candidate – after Willis, Loheni and Garcia --- suggests that there is a belief Winston  Peters will win that seat but that the party needs to up its presence in the north by getting King into Parliament.

However based on last night’s One News  Colmar Brunton poll which had the party at 47% and calculations by National's pollster, David Farrar, King might just miss out.

On the other hand, Willis’s position marks her out as the new candidate to watch.

She told POLITIK last night that she was thrilled with her ranking but said it was a recognition of the work that the Wellington members of the party had put into growing National's vote in the region.

With a formidable CV as both a policy advisor to former PM John Key and then working on Government relations for Fonterra, Willis joins another new candidate, Andrew Falloon (Rangitata) as a former Beehive employee becoming an MP.

But she said she had already learnt there was a big difference between being an advisor and an MP.

Otherwise, the list might be seen as a projection of future talent the party would hope might get into winnable seats or winnable list positions at the 2020 election.

Candidates like Mathew Gregory (Dunedin South) and Adrienne Pierce who is from the East Coast but is standing in Palmerston North would meet that ambition.

There are also some warnings (and surprises) on the list.

Among the so-called “Class of 2014”, the new MPs elected at the last election, Taranaki-King Co8ntry MP, Barbara Kuriger tops the list followed by Waimakariri MP, Matt Doocey.

They are followed by Joanne Hayes, Andrew Bayly, Chris Bishop, Sarah Dowie and Nuk Korako.

But Todd Muller, picked by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger as a future leader is ranked eighth among the  “Class of 2014”  though he should win his Bay of Plenty seat. 

And Kaikoura MP, Stuart Smith, who won plaudits for his response to the earthquake in his electorate is the lowest ranked sitting MP on the list, though, again, he should win his seat.

Ultimately National should have nine new electorate MPs and possibly three new list MPs.

If, though its vote slips to around 44% then it could expect to lose Nuk Korako, Maureen Pugh and none of the new candidates who do not win electorate seats would make it in.

That's how fine the margins are in this election.

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