Labour first-term MP Grant Robertson has shot up to the front bench in the party's reshuffle announced today, replacing Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, who has asked for a lighter work load because she is having another baby.
Mr Robertson takes over the heavyweight health portfolio off of Ruth Dyson, who drops a place and picks up the conservation, state services and immigration portfolios.
There are no other newcomers to the front bench, with the current crop just moved around. Shane Jones, demoted because of his use of his ministerial credit card, has been promoted to just outside the front bench (top 12), and he has picked up the transport, infrastructure and associate Maori affairs portfolios.
He previously did not have any portfolios.
Grant Robertson's promotion is no surprise whatsoever, and we congratulate him. He has been the strongest performer of Labour's 2008 intake by a considerable margin. Ruth Dyson has failed to put any pressure on Health Minister Tony Ryall, and she would seem to be on the outer with her leader. Whether or not that means that she is one of the Chris Carter Seventeen is anyone's guess.
We were surprised too that Shane Jones did not return to the front bench. We cannot help but wonder if the regular touting of Jones as a challenger for Goff's leadership has caused him to keep the Shadow Minister for Buff Films at arm's length.
There was one other annoucement today that caused us some mirth - read on:
He said Parekura Horomia, dropped from number five to 10 but retaining the Maori Affairs portfolio, was part of a generation of Maori leaders that would eventually be replaced by new Maori leaders such as Shane Jones and Kelvin Davis.
"[Parekura] would himself acknowledge that after a further term in Government, he'll probably be looking at moving on," Mr Goff said.
Oh really? We reckon that Horomia has been pretty much missing in action (or should that be missing in inaction?) since the 2008 election, and yet he still features in Goff's plans going forward. Given that we reckon that Labour is unlikely to recapture the Treasury Benches this year, Horomia is not going to have "a further term in Government" until 2017 at least and preferably later, he will continue to be missing in (in)action for years to come. Surely, if Labour has "new Maori leaders" such as Jones and Kelvin Davis, now is the time to advance their careers.
We reckon that the Horomia situation epitomises Labour's dilemma. Its front bench is full of time-servers. Goff, Trevor Mallard and Annette King have all been in Parliament since the Lange years. The others on Labour's front bench, Robertson and Charles Chauvel apart, have all been around since the beginning of the Clark era.
The full caucus rankings can be viewed here. We wonder how Clare Curran feels about being ranked only one place higher than the anonymous Ashraf Choudary, or how Carmel Sepuloni feels about being ranked higher than only Labour's newest MP Kris Fa'afoi and the three retirees who are unranked. We certainly doubt that John Key will be too worried by today's announcement, especially when space would need to be found for Winston Peters near the top of the bench should he be able to fool enough of the people on November 26th. It would seem that Labour is not yet ready for rejuvenation.