Chris Tremain somewhat unexpectedly announced yesterday that he will not be standing at the next election. He has been the MP for Napier for the past eight years. He won the seat in 2005 with a 3,600 majority over labour’s Russell Fairbrother, pushed it out to 9,000 in 2008 but then, in 2011 in an election where National blitzed the opposition saw his majority crumble to 3,700 over Stuart Nash.
This was a surprising result and testimony to an energetic campaign run by Nash. In 2011 outside of Auckland and the West Coast Labour struggled to find anything to cheer about. But the Napier result gives Stuart Nash, presuming he is selected as candidate, and Labour some hope of winning the seat next year.
Maybe Tremain saw the writing on the wall. A similarly sized swing to the last one would have seen him relying on a list position to remain in Parliament. And John Key has been clear in stipulating performance at an electorate level as a career enhancing requirement, and loss of an electorate seat as something to frown about.
Although we have MMP this approach is perfectly sound. An electorate seat gives gravitas and resources to an area that should result in an improved political performance.
And Labour struggled to win provincial seats last time. Amongst the General Electorates the only electorate winners outside of the four main metropolitan centres were Iain Lees Galloway in Palmerston North and Damien O’Connor in West Coast.
There is plenty of reason for hope. This Government’s only approach to regional development is to leave it to the market. A helping hand to the provinces could not only lift up their quality of living but also reduce the urge of Kiwis to flock to Auckland. David Cunliffe choosing himself to be spokesperson for Regional Development shows the importance he attaches to this policy.
So expect a strong emphasis on regional development especially on job creation in the lead up to the next election. And I would recommend that Labour hits the road and starts visiting the provinces to persuade locals that the best sort of political leadership is that which plays an active role in fashioning the future and not that which sits on its hands and hopes the wealthy decide to work for the common good.