Pansy Wong's resignation from the Cabinet a week before the Mana byelection presents Prime Minister John Key with a golden opportunity.
He has the chance to add fresh blood to his ministry without the usual resentments around reshuffles and a chance to show Mana the calibre of National's Hekia Parata.
The three top candidates for promotion in National's 2008 intake are Selwyn MP Amy Adams and list MPs Michael Woodhouse and Parata.
Parata would be a top contender for a vacancy in the ministry with or without the Mana byelection.
She is assured of promotion in a second-term Key Government.
And of the three, she is the best fit for Wong's portfolios of Women's Affairs and Ethnic Affairs.
If we recall correctly, there was speculation when National was elected in 2008 that Hekia Parata might have been drafted straight into the executive, a la Steven Joyce. From what we've seen and heard, she's been a very good performer in her first two years as an MP, and she is certainly campaigning hard in Mana; the "Heck, yeah" slogan that she has adopted (and that we have stolen for our title line!) is catchy. Mrs Inventory met her in passing last year, and though she seldom has a kind word to say about politicians, she was impressed!.
And as Audrey Young points out further on in her opinion-piece, being in government has its advantages:
Key has some clear choices: promote Parata before the byelection; promote Parata after the byelection; or promote no one and give Wong's portfolios to existing ministers. But promoting Parata before a byelection - even to a minister outside Cabinet - would tell the Mana electorate something of the calibre of the National candidate.
Phil Goff does not have that luxury. Labour's candidate, with his wonderful memories of his first year, is highly unlikely to be in the running for a Cabinet position even if Labour was to win next year's election. But John Key could really add impetus to Hekia Parata's campaign as next Saturday's by-election looms.
Much was made prior to the 2008 election of John Key's nickname from his former life; the Smiling Assassin. He has an opportunity to turn the screws a bit this week on Phil Goff and the Labour Party, at the same time as advancing the career of one of the Class of '08 and lancing the boil of Pansy Wong's troughing. Let's see if he lives up to his reputation. In the meantime, we wish Matt McCarten's campaign every success!