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ACT's The Letter - Ranking Party Leaders

The Letter

Tuesday 28 October 2003


After ranking of Parliament’s most effective backbench MPs we received requests for the ranking of the front bench. So here it is. There are 15 opposition frontbenchers. We rank them 1 to 15 and then give their overall opposition rank.


Bill English comes in as number one. Using the Sunday Star Times criteria, Bill asked 63 primary oral questions, 198 supplementary questions (supps), 9 written questions, issued 124 media releases and received 1176 newspaper appearances giving him a total of 1570. (Overall number 3 behind ACT MPs Rodney Hide and Muriel Newman).

No 2 is Winston Peters with 61 orals, 320 supps (no one else in NZ First gets a look in), a credible 390 written questions, a massive 128 media releases and 580 media appearances for a total of 1398 (4th overall).

No 3 is Green MP Rod Donald thanks to 733 written questions. Rod asked 8 orals, 49 supps, issued 48 releases and made 263 media appearances – total 1103 (5th MP).

Number 4 is Richard Prebble with 18 orals, 100 supps, 30 written, 83 media releases and 530 media appearances, total 763, overall 8th.

Number 5 is National’s Simon Power. 8 orals, 39 supps, 429 written, 36 media releases and 102 media appearances – total 614 (10th).

Number 6 is Don Brash with 11 orals, 40 supps, 141 written, 26 releases for 377 media mentions, total 595. 12th overall. (Don as leader will do much better). Number 7 is Lynda Scott (National) with 21 orals, 73 supps, 98 media releases, 136 media appearances – total 585, overall number 13.

Number 8 is Green’s Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons with 17 orals, 130 supps, 28 written, 94 releases and 235 media mentions, total 504, overall number 18.

Number 9 is Peter Dunne. 6 orals, 83 supps, 26 written, 102 media releases for 284 appearances, total 501. (The worst performing Party Leader).

Number 10 Gerry Brownlee with 21 orals, 82 supps, 85 written, 59 releases for 215 mentions – total 462, overall 20th. No 11 ACT’s Deputy Leader Ken Shirley with 6 orals, 74 supps, 123 written, 89 releases and 126 media mentions - total 418, overall 23rd.

No 12 is National’s Wayne Mapp with 3 orals, 28 supps, 208 written, 46 media releases for a total of 387 (27th in overall ranking).

No 13 is NZ First Deputy Leader Peter Brown. 12 orals, 71 supps, 39 written, 26 releases and 120 media mentions, total 268, (33rd).

No 14 is National Deputy Leader Roger Sowry with 8 orals, 39 supps, 58 releases for just 128 media appearances for a total of 255, makes him 35th overall – lower than ACT’s lowest ranked MP!.

No 15 is NZ First MP Brian Donnelly with 4 orals, 55 supps, 2 written, 15 releases, 29 media mentions, total 103 which puts him into the bottom 20 MPs.


The Sunday Star Times criterion gives far too much for written questions. Some MPs send the same question to all 28 Ministers. The leaders can hog their parties’ questions, like Winston does. On just the media the order becomes Bill, Winston, Richard, Don, then Rodney.

Media appearances are not necessarily good. Many of Don Brash’s 377 are leadership challenge references. The list for all its weaknesses does show which MPs are making an impact.

ACT provides 5 of the top 10 MPs. National provides the best and the worst. NZ First is a one-man party. The United party is the least effective.

See for a full list.

NATIONAL’S LEADERSHIP The survey shows that National has today replaced their most effective MP with an MP who is ranked number 12, because the MPs know National does not lack media coverage but a strategy.

A question. Name three policies National campaigned on in last year’s election? Ok, name just one.

You know that Winston Peters campaigned on just three issues. Immigration, crime and treaty.

Voters know that ACT is the low tax party, zero tolerance for crime, fair, full and final treaty settlements and is in favour of property rights.

National needs to re-create its brand and it has to dominate the centre.


Upheavals in parties are not necessarily disastrous, provided they result in a settled outcome. Voters expect the position of being the next PM to be hotly contested.

What is crucial for National is where the party goes from here.

A vote below 20% and National could disappear. The Centre Right holds just 21 of the 67 constituency seats. While technically MMP is proportional, the reality is to win government National must win at least 40% of the electorates.


As John Banks advises, the party must say what it is for and just as important, what it is against.

No centre right government has won office without first winning the economic credibility issue. With Don Brash, National should have been winning by defining the issue “how are we going to get our standard of living up with Australia again?” (Labour’s got no credible policy to lift NZ to the top half of the OECD).

Second. Family values. National used to stand for the family. How can Labour supporting United have taken votes off National? (The Labour leadership knows nothing about what it is like to be a parent.)

Third. Security. Those on fixed incomes need to be reassured that the centre right government will guarantee their economic security.

National then needs some credible answers in health and education. Last election National’s health and education policy was a mess.

Then target the provincial constituencies.

Finally. Take a look at today’s survey. Promote the hard working and drop the lazy.


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