“National struggles to fill list”

Tracey Watkins has written about Aaron Gilmore and the quality of MPs in National struggles to fill list despite healthy pay.

The money’s good, the hours are flexible and the job comes with influence and power. But apparently it’s a struggle finding decent applicants for a job as an MP, even on a hefty pay packet of $142,000 a year, plus expenses.

National also runs an “integrated list” – which means candidates prepared to put their hand up in unwinnable seats are rewarded with a list placing as well.

That was how Mr Gilmore got a place on the party list, because he stood for Christchurch East, where National had no chance of winning.

In safe seats like Tamaki, however, four or five high-quality candidates would jostle for selection – but only one would make the cut.

Many high-fliers, meanwhile, were not prepared to give up their other lives for an uncertain political future.

Watkins quotes David Farrar who had blogged on this in List Ranking:

“Unless you really rate yourself to become a minister and, more importantly, you can see yourself becoming a minister in three or four years, the salary doesn’t attract some of the high-fliers”.

“The reality is … you go in at the bottom of the pile and if you’re lucky, or like Nikki Kaye work really hard, you get to become a minister. But if National had lost the last election, she also could have spent the next six or seven years in Opposition.”

There are major time and financial commitments in standing for Parliament. Farrar has previously said that a candidate needs to dedicate at least six months leading up to an election. And many people having their first attempt will be low on the list and/or will be standing in an unwinnable seat, so the chances of success are limited.

People wanting to maintain business activity or employment simply can’t afford the time off that campaigning requires, especially if standing for one of the major parties.

Watkins also says former Labour Party president Mike Williams…

…says Labour doesn’t have the same problem because for most of its candidates $142,000 is a lot of money.

But Labour candidates also have the time commitment problem – and they are not guaranteed to get the $142,000 salary at the end of the campaign. Over half their candidates in 2011 failed to make it into Parliament.

Labour may have less of a problem getting candidates – but they have at least as much of a problem getting quality candidates. Even though they have not much more than half the MPs that National has the depth of quality is hardly stellar. There are calls from within Labour ranks to revitalise their line up of MPs.

Another aspect regarding quality of lists is that how a successful candidate will measure up as an MP is a lottery.It is a totally different job for all new MPs. Some rise to the task, some don’t – like Aaron Gilmore up until now.

Greens have weaknesses in their list of MPs.

And all the small parties have real difficulty in getting quality candidates.

I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done to improve the quality of MPs. Maybe we just have to accept the system as it is and take our chances with who we get to represent us in Parliament.

 

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