Benson-Pope not standing


David Benson-Pope is not going to stand for Dunedin South.

However, the MP did not go without a fight.

Mr Benson-Pope (58) lost the Labour Party nomination for the electorate to Dunedin public relations consultant Clare Curran in a bitter battle that continues to split the electorate.

“I acknowledge the widely-held view that the candidate selection was not in the best interest of the electorate and that little regard has been given to the very high level of voter support that I have received in five terms as a [city] councillor and three terms as the parliamentary representative of this electorate,” he said.

“In the end, however, I cannot respond to the disloyalty of a few by allowing any personal sense of betrayal to stand in the way of my political philosophy.”

His decision not to stand came after a long and difficult consideration. He urged voters to cast their party vote for the Labour Party.

His loyalty to the party doesn’t stretch to the candidate Clare Curran though because he only mentioned the party vote.

Dene Mackenzie  said Benson-Pope gave no hints about what he’d do now but options include public office – either a board appointment or election to the Dunedin City Council.

The grapevine has suggested before that he might take a tilt at the mayoralty.

Communicating or campaigning?


David Benson-Pope is distributing the 50 page booklet for over 60s which has slipped through an EFA loophole.

Asked yesterday why he had sent out the booklets, Mr Benson-Pope said he was still the MP for Dunedin South.

“As far as I am concerned, I am continuing to provide a service to the electors of Dunedin South. You know I am always keen to provide a good service as an MP.

And is he also using a taxpayer-funded opportunity to get his name and face in front of voters to help if he stands as an independent in Dunedin South?

We’ll get the answer to that question by Tuesday when nominations close.

Public Service undervalued


The ODT editorialises on loyal service:

Public service is all too frequently derided and devalued in this age of easy individualism.

At least this is the impression one might arrive at given the pall cast over it by this country’s congenital allergy to politicians – an allergy itched raw by certain branches of the media.

The retirement from Parliament of two of Dunedin’s long-serving parliamentarians offers an opportunity to reconsider this mean-spirited and ill-considered tendency.

In their own ways, Dunedin National Party list MP Katherine Rich and Dunedin South Labour MP David Benson-Pope deserve recognition for their years of service.

One of the reasons MPs are so poorly regarded is that most of the work they do doesn’t make the headlines, and can’t, because it’s helping individuals with private problems.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

Pledge spectacular failure


The ODT looks at the accusations against John Key and concludes:

Whether people accept his word remains to be seen but Dr Cullen is making his best efforts to show an intent to mislead and his accusation and Mr Key’s admission will generally work in favour of the Labour Party’s present election stance of asking voters whom they should trust.

But that can work against Labour and others, and in the context of the Winston Peters affair few MPs emerge with any credit whatsoever.

The attitude of the Prime Minister, who sacked ministers Lianne Dalziel and David Benson-Pope for lying to or misleading the public, is not untypical, for she has adopted a different quantifying scale with Mr Peters. . .

. . . Miss Clark’s response to this, when questioned by journalists, was that she did not intend to waste any more time on the matter.

That may be the safest political course in an election campaign, but Miss Clark also criticised the privileges committee hearing and described it as “tainted” before it had made its final report, a shameful attempt to influence one of our legal institutions.

She was not alone. Mr Peters himself, Dr Cullen and several other members of the committee, which represents a cross-section of parties in the House, felt moved to comment on the procedures, the evidence, and the accused, and their own conclusions during the hearings which, had the matter been heard in the High Court, would surely have invited a citation for contempt.

Indeed, contempt is a word many voters might well be employing to describe the poisonous state of affairs where the MPs’ behaviour and standards have sunk so low as to bring the very concept of the “people’s representatives” into serious disrepair.

“Our mission,” declared Helen Clark when opening her successful 1999 election campaign, “is to clean up government, and to clean up Parliament . . . the public’s faith in the democratic process must be restored.”

That is a pledge which voters should now measure, nine years later, and judge it to have been a spectacular failure.

Labour asks us to judge them on their record. But many of the promises they’ve kept were election bribes which shouldn’t have been made in the first place. and the most important one on restoring public faith in democracy has not just been ignored, it’s been torn up and ground into the mud.

Benson Pope’s valedictory may not be last speech


The ODT reports (not on line) that David Benson Pope is still neither confirming nor denying rumours he’ll seek the Dunedin South seat as an indpendent or for another party. But:

It is understoood his valedictory speech in the House tomorrow will emphasise the farewell speech is his last as a Labour MP.

That of course begs the question, will there be other speeches as an MP but not a Labour one?

Delaying an announcement continues to give him publicity so he has everything to gain by delaying an announcement and he’s dropped and he’s dropped hints that he will seek the seat again.

In May he said he was open to offers from other parties although in June he turned down one from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party .

Who will give valedictory speeches?


The NBR predicts there will be tears and fireworks in parliament this week.

It also mentions the valedictory speeches.

Whether or not David Benson-Pope delivers one will confirm if he’s retiring or planning to stand for the Dunedin South seat as an independent, or for a party other than Labour.

Benson-Pope would win?


Speculation that David Benson-Pope will stand as an independent in Dunedin South continues:

The Otago Daily Times understands private polling being undertaken in the electorate shows Mr Benson-Pope would win in a canter should he decide to stand.

His name recognition is high and people feel he was a good electorate MP who was treated badly by the party and trade unions.

If he did win the seat it would create, or add to, an overhang. That would help the centre left because if Helen Clark can stomach Winston Peters she could no doubt put aside past concerns with Benson-Pope to help her retain the reins of power. 


Benson-Pope still prevaricating


David Benson-Pope is still prevaricating on whether or not he’s planning to seek the Dunedin South seat as an independent – or for a party other than Labour.

He said he took the Labour signage off his electorate office a couple of weeks ago to comply with the Electoral Finance Act. But that excuse doesn’t hold water because the EFA takes effect from January 1st so he’d hardly breach the Act for eight months then suddenly decide to abide by it.

He could just be playing games but TV3 says he’s asked the council where billboards could be erected. Given the bad blood between him and Clare Curran Labour’s canddiate for the seat he currently holds it is unlikely he’s asking so he can help her.

Benson-pope still mute on future


The longer Dunedin South MP stays mute on his future the more speculation grows that he will seek re-election.

Mr Benson-Pope was replaced as the party’s candidate by public relations consultant Clare Curran.

Former Dunedin South and St Kilda MP Michael Cullen was in the city on Sunday to launch Ms Curran’s campaign.

While both spoke highly of Mr Benson-Pope, it must be on their minds whether the MP will not go quietly into the night and instead stand, perhaps as an Independent Labour candidate.

Ms Curran tells anyone who will listen that Mr Benson-Pope is more interested in the mayoralty of Dunedin than remaining in Parliament.

But the local government elections are two years away and Mr Benson-Pope has to fill in his time somehow before then.

If a National-led government takes power after the election, any hope he might have of a lucrative official appointment will disappear.

A clique of Labour MPs seems to think Mr Benson-Pope may stand. He continually avoids answering any questions, direct or otherwise, about his plans but he does make a point of urging people to cast their party vote for Labour.

A pointer to his future might lie in the McBride St window of his office. It says: Dunedin South Office, David Benson-Pope.

The word “electorate” has been blacked out and all Labour Party logos have been removed. Ostensibly, this is to comply with the Electoral Finance Act.

But as I blogged last week, the EFA does not interfere with an MP’s electorate work; and if the signage had been breaching the Act it would have been doing so since January 1.

It was the EFA – again?


There’s nothing suspicious in the removal of Labour Party signange from David Benson-Pope’s electorate office – at least that’s his story.

Labour Party signs have been removed from the front of the Dunedin South electorate office to comply with the Electoral Finance Act, Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope says.

Mr Benson-Pope was contacted yesterday after confusion from the public over the removal of the signs from the King Edward St office, which he shares with Labour MP for Te Tai Tonga, Mahara Okeroa.

“It is nothing anyone should let their imagination work overtime about,” he said.

The removal of party signage from electorate offices was “standard right across the country”, he said.

But the EFA is not supposed to interfere with the work of MPs. Not being able to let your constituents know where your office is would definitely resrtict your effectiveness.

And EFA restrictions on advertising took effect from January 1 so why wait until now to get rid of all the signage?

The Electoral Commission has still to decide whether logos are election advertsiements, and unlike Helen Clark who has a low opinion of the integrity of public servants, I don’t think the commission would leak its ruling to Labour before making it public.

So what’s going on?

Benson-Pope’s explanation sounds like a Tui-truth to me and only lends more credibility to the rumours he’s going to stand for Dunedin South – whether it’s as an independent or for another party, perhaps even New Zealand First as my earlier post suggested remains to be seen.

He could of course stop the speculation by clearly stating he’s not going to be seeking a seat. But it seems he’s been learning from the Winston Peters school of communication which prevents him from giving a straight answer to a simple question.

How desperate are they?


How low would you go in your efforts to retain power?

Would you for instance allow one of your MPs to leave your party and stand for another to help its chances of getting back in to parliament and yours of having a coalition partner? And if you were the other party would you accept the waka jumper?

I ask the question because the Dunedin grapevine is buzzing with the suggestion that David Benson-Pope is going to stand for New Zealand First in Dunedin South and that Labour will target the party vote but not try to win the seat.

How reliable is the grapevine? It varies and one fact which makes this scenario less likely is that Labour’s Dunedin South candidate is only 45th on the party list. On current polling that means she’d have to win her seat to get in to parliament.

The Dunedin South selection was acrimonious and there’s no love lost between Benson-Pope and Curran but he’s always been very careful to avow his loyalty to Labour.

Has that changed and would Labour sacrifice Curran?

The answer to that lies in another question: how desperate are Benson-Pope, Labour and New Zealand First?

Benson-Pope’s office exterior stripped of party colours


The advertising material on the outside of David Benson-Pope’s electorate office was removed last week.

Until then the exterior carried signage in Labour Party colours with a large red banner and party logos promoting the services of Benson Pope and his colleagues David Parker, Mahara Okeroa and Winnie Laben.

The exterior is now bare and my informant says the office is still operating but looks “semi empty”.

What does this mean when:

* An electorate office is paid for by parliamentary services and can’t carry party political advertising material so it should not have anything to do with preparation for the election.

* An electorate MP is an MP until election day and MPs and employees have time after the election to clear up and clear out should the MP not be re-elected.

* It should be far too close to the election to use parliamentary services funding to refresh signage for MPs.

* The Labour Party hasn’t enough money to fund a website so it wouldn’t spend its own money changing signage when what was there was spreading the message already.

So is this confirmation that Benson-Pope’s coy response to the ODT  about his future means that he will stand as an independent?

Because an MP who was going to resign from his party and stand as an independent would neither want nor be able to have his former party’s colours, logo and other material on his office.

Benson-Pope coy on future


David Benson-Pope’s  name was not on the Labour Party list which was released yesterday but he’s still being coy about his future.

He lost a selection contest for the Dunedin South seat to Claire Curran earlier this year.

The electorate remains divided, with Mr Benson-Pope still commanding large personal loyalty from many in the electorate.

He has been urged to stand in an independent capacity.

Asked yesterday whether he had decided about his future in politics, Mr Benson-Pope said it was not surprising his name was not on the list as he had not sought to be ranked there.

“I have no other comment to make other than to urge people to vote Labour with their party vote.”

There could be some indication of his future on September 9, 10 or 11.  On those days, retiring MPs will give their valedictory speeches in Parliament.

He says vote Labour with the party vote but doesn’t mention the electorate vote. That could just mean he hasn’t got over losing the selection or it could mean he’s still considering standing as an independent.

If he does there’s a chance he could win and if not does it mean he’d be on the parliamentary pay roll a little longer anyway?

I think – and I welcome correction if I’m wrong – that if MPs resign their pay stops on election day; if they stand and are not elected they get their pay for a few more weeks.

A cautionary tale of the fishy kind


Helen Clark ponders alone in despair

Her dearest dream’s turned into a nightmare

She thought she was popular and competent too,

But now she’s stuck knee deep in donkey do.


She ruled as PM which is what she desired

If anyone threatened her then they were fired

Ruth and Leanne were stood down when they failed

She couldn’t risk having her plans derailed.


Dover Samuels went fast and didn’t return

He was left on the back bench his lesson to learn

Phillida Bunkle, Marion Hobbs too

Were cast out from cabinet on their sins to stew.


She stood by BP when the first mud was thrown

But lest some spattered her, he was out on his own.

David Parker had a whoopsy so she dropped him fast

But let him come back when the danger had passed.


Phillip Field’s another who got into trouble

And eventually she left him alone in the rubble.

It took her a while, perhaps she was slow

But when polls started falling he had to go.


Harry Duynhoven, was another who went

And John Tamihere was forced to repent.

The message was clear: you falter – you fall

You’re out of cabinet if you drop the ball.


But she stuck with Peters through good times and bad,

Though many’s the day he’s driven her mad.

She put up with his bluster and held her tongue

When often she wished that he could be hung.


She draped him with baubles and stoked up his pride,

And accepted his word that he’d never lied.

Allegations have swirled but she stood aloof

Not trying too hard to seek out the truth.


But as the dirt that was thrown began to stick

She wanted him gone lickety split.

When all else had failed she at last told him “go”

But when you look at the facts, ‘twas only a show,


Portfolios passed over, the hard work he shirks.

But he’s still a Minister and keeps all the perks

Whatever was said only those two can tell,

But something has got a strong fishy smell.


Corruption’s a strong word, but something’s not right

As conflicting evidence comes into light.

And clinging to power is not without cost

Clark’s paid for it now with credibility lost.


Any day soon she’ll set a date

And voters will have in their hands her fate.

There’s still a faint chance they’ll buy her spin

And give her enough votes the election to win.

But win it or lose it one thing’s for sure

She and Winston are deep in manure.

John Key’s in the right and he’s standing strong

While Helen and Winston are left in the wrong.


And perhaps looking back she’ll see her mistake

In letting him of so many baubles partake.

If you sup with the devil it’s something you’ll rue

Especially if he’s supping a rotten fish stew.


Casualty list


Stuff has a list of Helen Clark’s ministerial casualties. The ones who have been sacked, suspended, stood down or forced to resign under her leadership since 1999 are:

June 28, 2000 – Dover Samuels

October 31, 2000 – Ruth Dyson.

February 23, 2001– Marian Hobbs and Phillida Bunkle (Alliance)

July 23, 2003 – Harry Duynhoven.

February 20, 2004 – Lianne Dalziel.

November 4, 2004 – John Tamihere

May 16, 2005 – David Benson-Pope.

October 19, 2005 – Taito Phillip Field

March 20, 2006 – David Parker.

July 27, 2007 – David Benson-Pope (again).

August 29, 2008 – Winston Peters.

If losing one minister may be regarded as a misfortune and two looks like carelessness, what can be said about losing a dozen?

The explanations for the ministerial falls from grace on Stuff is here and The Herald has photos here.

Meetings you’d want to miss


North & South challenged readers to suggest a speaker and topic guaranteed to attract a smaller crowd than the 36 people who attended one of Michael Cullen’s public pre-Budget briefings.

The magazine appreciated Jill Sinden’s offering: Helen Clark Presents Eight Countries, 15 Days, One Trouser Suit – How to Dress Up and Down with Style and Panache.

But the prize went to Megan McPherson with a Winter Lecture Series: Painting for Charity – an interactive workshop with the Rt Hon Helen Clark; Macro-economic Trends in Western Migration with Mary Anne Thompson; and Tagging – Legitimate Post-Modern Form of Self-Expression by Artistically repressed Urban Youth… Cindy Kiro Explains.

To these I’d add: Food You Should Fear from Sue Kedgley; Disciplined Discipline – a joint presentation by Sue Bradford and David Benson-Pope; and The Fourth Estate – Their Part in my Downfall by Winston Peters.

Peters digging own hole with Muldoon strategy


The ODT points out that Winston Peters is following Rob Muldoon’s strategy with critics.

… get in first with the verbal punches. If this does not work, try shouting down your opponents. Failing this, deny everything. Finally, ignore your accusers.

Winston Peters, who imbibed his political skills at Sir Robert’s knee, is trying a combination of all four strategies in the worst crisis facing his New Zealand First party in its 15 years.

So far, we have had a succession of embarrassing – but unacknowledged – retreats.

The refusal to repay the $158,000 owed to parliamentrary services, which has not been cancelled by donations of that amount to charity; the repeated denials over the $100,000 donation from Owen Glenn to pay his legal expenses; and now allegations of multiple donations to New Zealand First from the Vela family who are associated with fishing and racing.

Perhaps a majority of voters could not care less, but in the highly charged atmosphere of an election year, and at a time when many people are personally struggling, the familiar accusations of political hypocrisy and thoughts of a “plague on all their houses” will tend to stick.

Unfortunately for Mr Peters, he is left looking more hypocritical by the hour for this is, after all, the man who left the National Party to set up his own on the basis of “cleaning up” politics, ever ready to mount his white charger in the defence of hard-pressed “rorted” taxpayers, and to accuse every other political party of being funded by “secret donations”, of having “slush funds”, and therefore of being the captives of “big business”.

He has spent so much of his career talking about the need for honesty, integrety and transparency but has failed to uphold the high standards he expects of everyone else.

The chief accusation of the latest reports involving multiple donations for amounts just under $10,000 from 1999 to 2003 are serious because donations of more than $10,000 or multiple donations of smaller amounts from the same company or person in one year have to be declared under our electoral law.

They may well have been so declared – NZ First says all money received is accounted for and audited – but not declaring donations is a serious matter, as the Prime Minister pointed out.

Complaints to the appropriate authorities, such as the Auditor-general, registrar of pecuniary interests, or Inland Revenue, would be investigated if such allegations could be substantiated.

The Glenn donation, said to have been used for paying Mr Peters’ legal costs, might also fall into the category of needing to be declared in the ministers’ register of pecuniary interests.

Mr Peters holds the offices as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Racing and Associate Minister for Senior Citizens outside the Cabinet, in a support arrangement with the Clark Government.

Although that might appear to allow the Government room to distance itself from any fall-out, should the allegations have substance and damage further Mr Peters’ substantially diminished credibility, the Prime Minister must act.

She has publicly made a cautious caveat: “Until I think it’s seriously affecting the job he is doing, and I’ve stressed he’s done that job with integrity, I don’t have a concern.”

Didn’t she same something similar about David Benson-Pope?

In the meantime, the Speaker has received a complaint from Act New Zealand leader Rodney Hide that Mr Peters should have declared the Glenn donation, and complaints have already been laid by members of the public with the Electoral Commission and Inland Revenue over the donation, but these may be outside the time limit on complaints.

The National Party’s attitude is enigmatic and scarcely honourable: on the one hand it is busy condemning the Clark Government for supporting him as a minister and coalition supporter; on the other it is not ruling out dealing with NZ First should it be in a position to form a government.

That sadly is the political reality of MMP.

In private, Labour will be concerned about the way this affair could eventually damage it.

Miss Clark risks the prospect of being accused of double standards in the way she treats ministers tainted by scandals: unless Mr Peters can provide a more convincing explanation than he has so far for the Glenn and other donations, his case will inevitably be compared with the memory-losses of David Benson-Pope.

It is drawing a long bow, but the risk cannot wholly be excluded of Mr Peters being invited to relinquish his ministerial portfolios – especially Foreign Affairs – and retaliating by withdrawing his party’s support for the Government.

At that point an early election would be an inevitability, and should Mr Peters then be looking for another moral panic to attract the attention of voters in the election campaign he would need look no further than his own.

In the meantime, he is in a hole entirely of his own making.

And he’s still digging.

Clark Visit to Cover Cracks


The ODT reports  that Helen Clark’s visit to Dunedin tomorrow might be used to try to heal rifts created in Labour’s Dunedin South electorate organisation when Clare Curran won the candidate selection over incumbent David Benson-Pope.

Although it’s not a wealthy electorate, Dunedin South  has long been one of Labour’s biggest financial contributers. The need for campiagn cash will be in Clark’s mind and she will also want to shore up support for Curran to try and head off any ideas Benon-Pope might have of standing as an indpendent.

Benson-Pope might go independent


Just what Labour needs – the ODT reports that Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope is considering standing as an independent Labour candidate.

Mr Benson-Pope lost the contest to remain the Labour Party candidate on February 2 when he was defeated by Dunedin public relations consultant Clare Curran. Labour Party headquarters staff were on hand to ensure Mr Benson-Pope did not win and some last-minute shifts in support left the MP without the votes to retain the nomination.

This is what happens when the rules enable HQ to out vote the locals.

Mr Benson-Pope has been highly visible in the electorate this year. He has always been regarded as a hard-working and effective MP but seems to be putting an extra effort into his work in recent months.

The Otago Daily Times understands the MP has been telling people in the electorate that, under MMP, they had a choice of voting for Labour with their party vote but that they could vote for any of the candidates.

Inquiries by the newspaper found a high level of discontent in parts of the electorate, particularly centred on the South Dunedin branch, which has the money and the people to mount a campaign in support of Mr Benson-Pope.

A women’s branch has disaffiliated itself from Dunedin South and is considering its options, which include affiliating to the Dunedin North electorate or the party’s Otago regional council.

The South Dunedin branch is now controlled by supporters of the MP, although Labour Electorate Committee chairman Richard Good said yesterday the public comment from the branch was “nothing but 100%” behind Ms Curran.

Public comment might be, but the last thing a new candidate, or the Party, need is the incumbent and his supporters working on a different agenda.


When approached for comment, Mr Benson-Pope was reluctant to make any public statements, but did give a brief response: “My loyalty to the party is beyond question and I don’t intend to change that. I understand what loyalty means.”

However, the ODT was told Mr Benson-Pope seemed out for revenge and a few people were “baying for blood” within the South Dunedin branch.

Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton and United Future leader Peter Dunne have both proved that Labour MPs can leave the party but retain enough local support to win their electorates with handsome margins.

Mr Anderton, now loyally behind the Labour-led Government, despite having major personal and political differences with Prime Minister Helen Clark, left to form New Labour. Mr Dunne resigned to position himself for the introduction of MMP in 1996.

Individuals can go independent and win seats, but it’s almost always better for parties if they don’t.

Mr Dunne said under MMP, loyal Labour supporters could give their party vote to Labour but still vote for Mr Benson-Pope and feel their honour was satisfied.

“Effective local MPs under MMP can stand out against a national trend politically.”

Two examples were Labour MP Harry Duynhoven, in New Plymouth, who held the seat with the largest majority in New Zealand while National took the party vote, and National Party MP Nick Smith, who was popular in Nelson but Labour was often ahead in the party vote, Mr Dunne said.

Or Dunne who wins the electorate but the party vote still goes to Labour or National.

Ms Curran said her campaign committee was working well and she had a team of 60 or 70 volunteers preparing to deliver 25,000 leaflets to every household in the electorate.

“There are some members of the party in Dunedin South who found the selection process painful.”

Full marks for restraint when she must be spitting tacks. Benson-Pope won the seat by around 10,000 votes but National candidate, Conway Powell, knocked his majority, and the all important party vote, back by about 5,000 compared with 2002. I’m not going to predict a National win in a deep red seat, but internal ructions always help the other side so even if Benson-Pope doesn’t stand there is enough bad blood being spilt to do some harm to Labour.

Update 1: Monkeys with Typewriters  notes Benson-Pope’s declaration of loyalty to Labour today which reminded me of this declaration  “I’m a loyal Labour Party person,” when questioned about standing as an independent in November last year.

Update 2: David Farrar  points out that if Benson-Pope won the seat as an independent it might help Labour as he’d vote with them and if he takes the seat they’d get another list MP.


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