National Party list MP Claudette Hauiti has this morning announced her retirement from politics. It’s safe to say that since she came in to Parliament as Aaron Gilmore’s replacement, back in May last year, her career as a backbench MP has been somewhat less than stellar. Her sole headlines have been negative – employing her wife in contravention of Parliament’s rules, and misusing her Parliamentary charge card.
Her recent appearance on Backbenchers was laughably bad, especially in comparison to her fellow guests, the seasoned Phil Goff and the ever-ebulient Gareth Hughes. On the subject of the Greens’ Clean Rivers policy, all she could offer was a repeated mantra that the Greens’ would not be consulting and liaising enough with Maori on the policy; it was a line that ignored the question of whether National believes our river quality is adequate, that ignored the question of why National’s policy would produce better results than the Greens’, that ignored the issues altogether. She was out of her depth, and it showed.
I thought at the time of her Backbenchers appearance that Ms Hauiti was symptomatic of National’s electoral success. It’s hard finding sufficiently high-calibre candidates to fill a list of 40, let alone the 75 that National went with in 2011. When a party gets damn near to 60 MPs, with the addition of a selection of mid-term retirements, people start arriving in Parliament that the party might well wish were not. That certainly seems true of Claudette Hauiti, who went into the 2011 election as number 63 on National’s list.
So why is she bowing out now, less than two months before election day? Presumably, she’s been given advance warning that her list ranking position was going to be dreadful (National is just days away from releasing their list). One can only assume that not only was she was going to be dead last among National’s sitting MPs, but that a fair few new candidates would be leap-frogging her. It’s the party’s way of saying “You’re not wanted”, and she’s evidently bitten the bullet.
It remains to be seen whether National quickly reopen nominations for the new seat of Kelston, where Hauiti has been selected to stand, or whether she continues to run a campaign there, safe in the knowledge that she will lose to Carmel Sepuloni.
UPDATE 22/07/14 @ 1.50pm:
National Party President Peter Goodfellow has confirmed that the party will re-open nominations for Kelston tomorrow, with nominations closing on 30 July.
And Stuff.co.nz further reports that:
It is understood Hauiti reached her decision after Prime Minister John Key phoned her last night.
It is believed he would have reiterated what others had been telling her, that there was no future for her in National and that she had come to be seen as a liability.