Labour Party President Jill Day and Labour Leader Chris Hipkins unveil the list in Wellington yesterday.

Labour Leader Chris Hipkins found himself yesterday having to assertively spin the upside of Labour’s election list as he tried to avoid stating the obvious; that his caucus is likely to be a lot smaller after the election and that will bring with it all sorts of tensions and challenges.

Labour’s president, Jill Day, was in on the spinning too.

She claimed the list that she was unveiling would bolster the “experienced caucus with fresh new talent.”

In fact, it is highly unlikely to do that.

What is notable about the list is that on present polling, it may add only one new MP, Georgie Dansey, to the three new MPs expected to win electorate seats.

Otherwise, the 43 seats that the One News Verian poll suggests Labour might win are likely to be occupied by current members of Parliament.

It is what happens when a party crashes from a big caucus to a much smaller one, as National found the last election when it brought in only five new MPs, none off the list.

By favouring its sitting MPs, Labour has clearly tried to limit any public backlash from those MPs headed for the exit.

By at least one calculation, they could include some big names.

The National Party’s pollster, David Farrar, has calculated that MPs who may not come back could include Pryanca Radhakrishnan, Camilla Belich, Shanan Halbert, Glenn Bennett, Venushi Walters, Dan Rosewarne, Naisi Chen, Anahila Kanongata’a, Angela Roberts, Anna Lorck and Tessa Ngobi.


But Farrar has assumed Labour will hold some electorate seats like Ilam, East Coast, Napier and Whanganui that they may not.

That will be the key.

The fewer electorates they hold, provided their vote keeps up to at least 33 per cent, then the more likely list candidates like Radhakrishnan, Belich, Halbert, Bennett, Walters and Rosewarne are to come back.

Bringing those MPs back would give Labour a much fresher look, something that Prime Minister Chris Hipkins seemed to acknowledge yesterday.

“I think we should acknowledge that in 2017 and in 2020, we had a significant intake of new talent,” he said.

“Some of those MPs are just starting to make their mark, and I think people are starting to see that.

“So those people do deserve the opportunity to continue to build on their parliamentary careers.

“The number of new MPs get will ultimately be determined by the number of votes we get.”

There may also have been some subtle signals on the list.

The former Transport Minister, Michael Wood, only a few months ago being spoken of as a leadership contender, was ranked at 40.

In some senses, it is immaterial because he will hold his safe Mt Roskill seat. But nevertheless, it did seem to be a hint that his troubles over his undeclared shares have left a sour taste among both his colleagues and the party more generally.

“What happened was he’s no longer a minister; he’s still ranked within the caucus,” said Hipkins.

But pressed further, he said Wood still faced a Privileges Committee inquiry into the shares.

“I’m absolutely confident that Michael’s going to run a strong campaign in Mt Roskill,” he said.

“I think he’s going to get the support of the voters of Mt Roskill.

“But he’s still working through those issues around his shares. There’s a bit of water to flow  under the bridge there for him.”

Labour’s list-making is a complex process. It is done by the New Zealand Council with (this time) Hipkins, Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni there also.

The party must take gender, ethnic and regional balances into account.

They have achieved the gender issue, possibly ending up with a majority of female MPs after the election.

But there may be questions about the ethnic balance.

There are nine members of the 14-member Maori caucus in the top 45 on the list, and one Maori MP, Soraya Peke-Mason, is standing only in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate, where she will have a tough battle with Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

That seat has been vacated by Adrian Ruawhe is now the Speaker and is running only on the list at a safe Number 11, Trevor Mallard’s old position.

The chair of the party’s Rainbow Caucus, Shanan Halbert (also a member of the Maori Caucus), is contesting Northcote, a marginal electorate which he currently holds but where he faces a formidable challenge from the former National MP, Dan Bidois.

At 28 on the list, he will have a nervous election night.

There was some confusion yesterday about Tamati Coffey, who announced on Sunday that he would contest East Coast for the party replacing Kiri Allan.

Party President Jill Day said he had only indicated that he wanted to stand late last week.

He was also given Position 36 on the list.

However, Hipkins indicated at yesterday’s media conference that the reason another replacement candidate, Cushla Tangaere-Manuel, who is standing in Ikaroa-Rawhiti after Meka Whaitiri defected to Te Paati Maori, was that she had been nominated too late to go on the list.

She was nominated five weeks before Coffey.

Hipkins said the reason she wasn’t on the list was because she was a “relatively late” nominee.

“It simply reflects the fact that the nominations had already closed when she put forward for Ikaroa Rawhiti,” he said.

Hipkins made those comments late yesterday morning.

But at his weekly press conference late yesterday afternoon, he had a subtly different account of what happened.

Asked why Tangaere-Manuel was not on the list, he repeated his claim that it was a timing issue” in terms of when the nominations came in.”

Media: “Obviously, Coffey is on the list, and he only nominated yesterday, so it can’t be down to a timing issue?”

Hipkins: “That is a little more complex question. The candidates in question didn’t ask to go on the list. They did not nominate for the list.”

That answer suggests that Coffey may have managed to negotiate a package deal to come out of retirement; he would stand in a tough seat provided he got a reasonable position on the list.

Farrar is forecasting that he will win the seat even though National held the seat from 2005 until Kiri Allan won it in the Labour landslide last election.

His list position may not be that secure either; Farrar calculates that he would need a party vote of around 39 per cent to secure it.

Ultimately Hipkins was realistic about the process and the outcome.

“I think everybody would like to be in the top 20 on the party list,” he said.

“There’s no question about that.

“But the reality is we’ve got a very large caucus, and so we need to make every effort.

“Somewhere along the way, you have to do a ranking because that’s the way that the democratic system really works.”

Of course, what that statement implies is that Labour’s “very large caucus” is highly likely to shrink at the election.