Whatever else you say about Judith Tizard, you gotta admit she won the final round and showed some real chutzpah in announcing her political career over

You know what? Kudos to Judith Tizard for her decision not to return to parliament. She can now say she left politics on her own terms, and doing the right thing. Good on her.

She never got her valedictory speech in the House, but she got in a short one on Q+A this morning. She got a slap in against nearly everyone: The Nats don't have a plan and in supporting partial privatisation of state power companies are acting like "finance company touts", Andrew Little (she implied) and the media were bullies, Phil Goff is going to have to up his game, and anyone who mocks her political contribution forgets her work on Auckland transport and her bill baning mining north of the Kopu-Hikuai Rd on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Tizard said she was tired of those who laughed at her ministerial contribution. And it's got to be said, that bill at least was significant - it got Christine Fletcher to cross the floor, in disobedience of orders from her leaders, and normalised a 'conservation over mining' mindset that came to the fore just last year, when National had to back down on its plan to open up Schedule 4 land to the miners.

Credit where credit's due, Tizard played her hand well this past week. Commentators from Barry Soper to Bill Ralston to Brian Rudman have all been proved wrong in their predictions that she would go back to parliament as the next person on the Labour list, replacing Darren Hughes. She'll enjoy that wee victory.

And you've got to say good on her for walking away from $162,000 for just over six months work. There are many who wouldn't have, including those with a supposed commitment to smaller government.

Tizard waited until two minutes and twenty seconds into the interview with Guyon Espiner before finally revealing her decision. Hand on heart, none of us knew what she was going to say.

An old hand, she knew that the instant she'd said 'no', she was a political has-been. So she got all her defence in first and made sure she had hit her important targets.

She's right that going back would have been bad for her, the party she obviously loves, and for MMP. But I believe she genuinely went back and forth on this decision, right until the last moment. It must have been tempting to honour the MMP list system and her commitment in 2008. And take the $162,000 on offer, of course.

It's easy to knock Tizard. So much of her career seemed to be spent protecting Helen Clark's leadership, and there's plenty of criticism to be made of her luvviness and her wine and cheese approach to the Auckland ministership, for example. But there have been plenty of MPs who have achieved less than she did, including some serving now. And many who wouldn't have walked away from that kind of pay-out.

Back when the mockery of her arose during last year's Mt Albert by-election - a clear and effective National party ploy, rolled out by David Farrar, from memory - that's what Phil Goff's response should have been. He could have simply said, 'c'est la vie, she's next on the list, I'm not going to get spooked by National party spin, and if you want to have a go at her, let's go through half a dozen Nats you've never heard of'.

It was a five minute story to which Labour gave unnecessary credence. No wonder Tizard bitched at Goff that he lacked a coherent plan to win the election.

Speaking of Goff, he's said today that each of the other blokes between Tizard and Louisa Wall on the list will each "be given the opportunity to make their own decision, but it is likely that the former MP who comes back will end up being Louisa Wall, Labour’s candidate in Manurewa".

Mark Burton and Martin Gallagher have already confirmed they're happy where they are. From that statement, you can assume Mahara Okeroa and Dave Hereora both know their place, and Wall's done and dusted. Labour can now get on with being an Opposition... you'd hope. And Tizard can 'move on', as Helen Clark would have said, chuckling as she goes.

Y'know, whatever you thought of Tizard as a politician - in a career going back to the Auckland Power Board in 1973, she told me - fair dues for going out in style.

Wham, bam, thank you mam. 

Comments (13)

by Graeme Edgeler on April 03, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

We shouldn't forget that of the parties in Parliament, it is National which has a rule in its constitution that requires its unelected list candidate to sign an undertaking promising "not to signify a willingness to be a Member of Parliament if approached by the Chief Electoral Officer after an General Election without first consulting with the Regional Chair and receiving approval of the Board."

National is in no position to criticise Labour for mucking around with the list voters voted on - it's the only Party which purports to directly hold that power.

by Tim Watkin on April 04, 2011
Tim Watkin

It's not a bad rule though is it, Graeme? The party sets the list, isn't it reasonable they retain some control for these sorts of situations, some years later? Or should lists be more open?

by Graeme Edgeler on April 04, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

And having watched Q+A over breakfast this morning I see I'm not the only one making the point - nice it finally got some play.

It's not a bad rule though is it, Graeme? The party sets the list, isn't it reasonable they retain some control for these sorts of situations, some years later? Or should lists be more open?

It is however an unenforceable rule.

And while the Party may set the list, the public votes on it.

I would like open lists, but that probably won't work in New Zealand. Open lists operate in countries which have regional lists; we're unlikely to go down that route, and a ballot paper with 572 names on it just wouldn't work.

The argument that there's a new leader so why should they be stuck with the old doesn't really fly. All of Labour's MPs, whether they came in in 2008 or have come in subsequently, have been selected by the previous leadership.

Do I particularly mind that someone who isn't running again decides "I've put parliamentary politics behind me"? No. But the proper response for people miffed at what has happened is to hold Labour to account at the next election.

by onsos on April 04, 2011

Good piece, Tim. I was never a big fan of Tizard, but didn't see much wrong with her either. She did some good things, and very little bad--which is more than could be said for many of the bench-warmers in government. More important, to me, is the chatter that accompanied her, as you rightly indicate.

The treatment of this issue in the media stinks. As a general rule, it would be good if we could ignore the right-wing hacks telling us what is happening in the Labour party. They are outside the loop, so they make things up.

Obviously this is most acutely the case with the bloggers--Farrar and Cactus Kate and the like (Slater if you must, but must we?)--and the clearly and overtly anti-labour writers in the press out there (Coddington and Hooton); it applies almost as much to the various 'political commentators' (Espiner, Armstrong, Small, etc.), who are happy to report unsourced rumour that is shown retrospectively to lack credibility.

Was there an attempt at a coup in the Labour party in the last fortnight? Were Parker, Robertson and Cunliffe doing the rounds? We will never know, and we have as much knowledge as the hacks who reported it.

by Deborah Coddington on April 04, 2011
Deborah Coddington

Onsos, I haven't even written about Tizard, though I have been asked to comment about her decision this afternoon on Radio Live, 5.20pm. I can't comment on your writing because I don't know who you are, but I'm paid for what I write (except on Pundit), and I have to say my editor has given up trying to pin me down politically. Which is why I'm amused that you think you can. If you go over my HoS columns, you might find I criticise the so-called right, ie Act and National, probably more harshly than I criticise the so-called left. Often there is little to distinguish them. I had dinner with Phil Goff the night before the Hughes scandal broke and he commented to me that he found much 'liberal' content in my columns. So there you go! To call me "anti-Labour" is lazy, and an over-simplification. In fact, you'd be quite surprised how many senior Labour MPs privately - and sometimes publicly on Red Alert - agree with my column, eg, anti-smacking was a very good case in point.

And we don't "report unsourced rumour". We are allowed to quote someone who prefers to remain unidentified, but if the quote is at all contentious, to satisfy the company lawyers, we must be able to provide a name for them, and if the quote could be at all defamatory, we have to provide a sworn affidavit. There's just no way any political mainstream journalist can get away with quoting unsourced rumour - bloggers maybe - but I don't know of any of my colleagues who'd risk it.

by Craig Ranapia on April 04, 2011
Craig Ranapia

National is in no position to criticise Labour for mucking around with the list voters voted on - it's the only Party which purports to directly hold that power.

But it's a damn sight more upfront than Andrew Little (who I don't recall voting for) expressing his dutifully reported "preference" to the media.  Just saying.

by Alec Morgan on April 05, 2011
Alec Morgan

Two minutes of sensational television. Dame Ednas younger sister rippling through somehow. Hopefully the last of the sideshows for the opposition pre election. Canterbury Finance is the story that keeps on giving.

by onsos on April 05, 2011


My apologies, I note that the piece of yours that I was specifically thinking of (your last piece) identifies its own speculation as such, and does not rely on unsourced rumour.

I'll take your word on quoting unsourced rumour more generally.I was over-hasty in ascribing that level of shoddiness to journalists. I had a quick look through, and there is very little indication of sources at all. I need to pay more attention.

Plese don't take me to task over my anonymity. I choose not to reveal who I am because it could jeopardise my employment. It is standard practice now for employers to google prospective employees, and most of my potential employers have a very different politics to mine. The situation is very different for a professional journalist; you guys trade on your name, and exposure is professionally valuable. If you are curious--and why would you be?--I will find a way to peronal message you and let you know who I am.

I'm sure you hobknob with Labour MPs. In my experience, they are an entertaining  enough bunch; you would have a lot of shared experience, and a lot to talk about. As you indicate, you share many social values, so this need not be an dissembling.

To call you 'anti-labour', however, is a straightforward position. Your writing consistently expresses opposition to protections for organised labour, and workers' rights generally. More specifically, you stood in opposition to the Labour party in Parliament for many years.

Your writing expresses general right-wing attitudes in relation to the economy, welfare, property ownership, labour relations and resource management. Those attitudes are antagonistic to the core values of the Labour project, and are sympathetic to the Natinal project--and the ACT party you used to represent in Parliament.

I can only speculate about why you attack the National party, and ACT; but it makes sense to me. These parties betray the values you express regularly in your columns, and which you represented in Parliament as part of the ACT party.

ACT, in particular, are hypocrites and have betrayed one of the few clear visions that have entered Parliamnet.

Labour and the Greens don't betray those values and visions, because they never purported to hold them. They have a whole nother set of values to betray. It seems similar to Chris Trotter, who seems to spend more time attacking the 'left' than the right these days.

I read your HoS columns, and have noted that you express opinions in divergence from party lines. Your position is clear, generally, and you show a consistent commitment to property and personal body rights, and freedom of expression and information, etc. I, personally, respect your intellectual consistency and partisan independence. As with John Armstrong, I find your columns mostly worth reading, even when I disagree. This, no doubt, means little coming from an anonymous comment on a blog-site, but there you go.


by Denis Tegg on April 05, 2011
Denis Tegg

Spot on with your reference to Judith Tizard's great work on the Coromandel No Mining Bill.  Remember this was an Opposition Private Members Bill, which won cross party support, and finally (the eating dead rats analogy applies here too) the National Party saw which way the political wind was blowing and adopted the Bill  as their own. This Bill was one of the best examples of MMP working as it should.  It's not hard to see why Judith cited her concern for MMP as one of the deciding factors in her not returning to Parliament.

Were it not for Judith's tireless efforts in the late 1990's, the Government's plans last year to mine conservation land would by now have been a reality.

by Deborah Coddington on April 06, 2011
Deborah Coddington

Onsos, my email is [email protected].

Of course I'm curious. I'm a journalist. We're just paid gossips (and if I knew how to do one of those smiley face emoticon thingies, I'd do one here) as opposed to PR flunkies, who are paid liars.

Then there are lawyers, as opposed to greenies who have law degrees.


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