National MP stands down from challenge

In November it was announced that someone would challenge list MP Paul Foster-Bell to be the National candidate in the Wellington Central electorate – see National MP challenge in Wellington Central.

National list MP Paul Foster-Bell, who stood in Wellington Central last election against Grant Robertson and James Shaw, is being challenged by Nicola Willis, who appears to be backed by John Key.

Foster-Bell has just announced that he will stand down from selection and won’t contest the election.

It sounds like he may be jumping before he was shoved aside.

Foster-Bell was ranked 46th on the National party list in the 2014 election. He is currently ranked at that same 46 on National’s website.

Candidate votes in Wellington Central in 2014:

  • Grant Robertson 19,807 (Labour 9,306)
  • Paul Foster-Bell 11,540 (National 14,689)
  • James Shaw 5,077 (Greens 11,545)

Will a better National candidate convert more party support into electorate votes? With a higher profile Shaw may split  more votes with Robertson.


National MP challenge in Wellington Central

National list MP Paul Foster-Bell, who stood in Wellington Central last election against Grant Robertson and James Shaw, is being challenged by Nicola Willis, who appears to be backed by John Key.

Newshub: Prime Minister recruits corporate high flyer for 2017

If the headline is an accurate reflection then Foster-Bell’s chances don’t look great, if he doesn’t get the hint and pull out.

One of Prime Minister John Key’s confidants and former senior advisors is set to enter Parliament, with Newshub learning she is being lined up as National’s Wellington Central candidate.

Nicola Willis has launched a challenge against incumbent candidate and list MP Paul Foster-Bell for the party’s nomination, which opens in January.

When nominations do open, it is my intention to put forward my nomination and to stand for the candidacy,” she told Newshub.

“This is a decision I’ve come to after lots of conversation with my family. It’s up to the National Party members to decide who their candidate is, so it’s them I’ll be focused on,” says Ms Willis.

The Prime Minister says she’d be a welcome addition to Parliament if she successfully challenged Mr Foster-Bell.

“If Nicola decided to try and come into Parliament, and obviously that’s subject to her either having a seat or getting on the list or whatever that might be, but she’s extremely talented. She’d make a very fine MP,” he says.

Implying that he doesn’t see Foster-Bell as such a fine MP.



Wellington Central last election:


A strong National candidate could make that very interesting.

It could create a quandary for Labour and Greens – will Shaw push hard for the best Green party vote again and wink-wink the electorate vote in Robertson’s direction? Or will he go hard out for an electorate win?

Both Shaw and Robertson are probably assured of winnable list positions (unless Labour’s vote crashes further), but there could be some importance on Wellington Central.

Foster-Bell’s staff problems

Paul Foster-Bell is has been a National MP since 2013 when he came in via the party list to replace Jackie Blue when she resigned from Parliament.

He seems to have a problem with his staff. According to Newshub he has had 12 employees leave his office in his three years as an MP.

According to one ex-staff member he is good at going to events but not good at managing his office.


As well as working as a diplomat Foster-Bell has been around the political traps a bit:

  • 2002 stood in Dunedin South (National did very poorly that year)
  • 2011 stood in Wellington Central and got 32.51%, less than National’s 38.42%
    (Grant Robertson won with 49.15%, Labour got 26.56%).
  • 2011 placed at 56 on National’s list and missed the cut, with several lower placed candidates winning electorates.
  • 2014 stood in Wellington Central and got less, 30.09% (National 37.54%)
    (Grant Robertson won with 51.64%, Labour got 23.78%)

Foster-Bell has had an unremarkable 3 years in Parliament. He is one of the lowest placed MPs in National’s pecking order apart from MPs who got in at the 2014 election.

His website shows that he is the Deputy Chair of Government Administration Select Committee and a member of the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

His website indicates he churns out media releases and is active on Facebook and Twitter.

UPDATE: Newshub now has the story up: National MP Paul Foster-Bell accused of bullying

National List MP Paul Foster-Bell is refusing to explain the high turnover of staff in his office.

He’s had 12 employees leave over the past three years, in what’s understood to be one of the highest employee turnover rates of any current, non-ministerial MP.

Newshub has been told by a handful of former staff members the reasons for the turnover include relationship breakdowns, an untenable work environment and jumping ship to other offices because of better offers.

Some of the woes have included internal mediation sessions, employment lawyers and interventions from Parliament’s human resources staff.

Two of the cases involve staff members who, on separate occasions, complained to Parliamentary Service about Mr Foster-Bell’s conduct, claiming he tried forcing each of them to resign.

In one of those cases, it’s understood Mr Foster-Bell called the worker into his office, told them they were resigning, and emailed news of the “resignation” to National’s whips’ office and to Parliamentary Service.

Lawyers were involved in an out-of-court mediation process, which saw the employee leave with a compensatory pay-out. A source close to the situation told Newshub: “The fact is, he’s a bully.”

The other case saw a loyal and long-serving staff member told to resign by Mr Foster-Bell, and even given a resignation date because they had been upfront about wanting a career change.

Another source told Newshub: “They gave Paul the courtesy of telling him they wanted a new challenge, and a career change. But then without even getting, or even looking for, a new job, or even thinking about resigning, Paul gave them a specific end date.”

That case also ended up in a dispute with Parliamentary Service, which sided with the staff member, claiming Mr Foster-Bell’s conduct wasn’t consistent with employment law.