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Ryall retires, completing the biggest ever rejuvenation for National

Health Minister  has announced he will retire at the election, which makes him the 14th  MP to announce their retirement (three have already left) since 2011.

Tony is doing a Simon Power and getting out on top. His management of the health portfolio in both opposition and government has been legendary. MPs used to see being given health as a political death wish, and a sign their leader wanted them damaged. Tony not only asked for it but has almost entirely removed it as a gaping wound that haunts governments.

Labour had scores and scores of well-meaning goals, almost none of which were ever achieved. Ryall implemented half a dozen clear targets for the health sector, and we’ve seen real progress made towards them. Some of the targets are:

  • 95% of ED patients dealt with within 6 hours – at 94% (up from 87%)
  • An extra 4000 elective surgeries a year – at 105% of target
  • Cancer treatment to start within four weeks - at 100% (was 65% in 2008)
  • 90% of infants immunised – at 91%.

If National gets a third term, deciding who to make health minister will be a challenge. Every week there are a dozen issues that could become front page stories if not handled well.  Paula Bennett could be a sound choice. Jo Goodhew is a sound associate but she is not yet in the cabinet.

So the 14 retirements since 2011 are:

  1. Lockwood Smith, List (gone)
  2. Jackie Blue, List (gone)
  3. Katrina Shanks, List (gone)
  4. Chris Tremain (Napier)
  5. Eric Roy (Invercargill)
  6. Tony Ryall (Bay of Plenty)
  7. Kate Wilkinson (Waimakariri)
  8. Phil Heatley (Whangarei)
  9. Chris Auchinvole (List)
  10. Paul Hutchison (Hunua)
  11. John Hayes (Wairarapa)
  12. Colin King (Kaikoura)
  13. Cam Calder (List)
  14. Shane Ardern (Taranaki – King Country)

blogged in March 2011 on the importance of  in a party’s second term if it wants a third and/or fourth. I said:

But if re-elected, some Ministers should give careful consideration (in my opinion) to retiring in 2014. Not because they are doing a bad job. Not because they are not valued. But because you don’t win if you don’t rejuvenate.

The actions of both Power and Mapp in retiring long before they were due to be pushed, should serve as an example to others.

It’s also an example some Labour MPs could follow.

This really puts the heat on Labour. I predict Cunliffe will say this is rats deserting a sinking ship but that’s ridiculous. National is averaging in the high 40s in the polls and has real momentum at the moment. Many of the retiring MPs have safe seats. The contrast with Labour is stark where MPs who entered in the 1980s are still hanging on for dear life.

So congrats to Tony for taking the decision to get out on top, even it means I lose a Wednesday morning walking companion! I’m sure his family are looking forward to getting to spend more time with him after the election.

It also opens up the Bay of Plenty seat for a new MP. It is a very safe seat, so should attract some high-calibre candidates.

As far as I know this is the last retirement to be announced. So the focus will now go on candidate selections and list ranking in the lead up to the election.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

Comments and questions

Although I am disappointed to see Tony Ryall leave, it is nice however to see that in contrast to Labour's politburo, National MPs see Parliament as a place to journey through, through life, and not as a destination. That ultimately serves the Parliament and this country well.

Ryall entered Parliament in 1990 - so, bit of a destination

This will be a loss for National. I don't think he ever had the X factor to be a PM but he would have made a great deputy/fix it man for a future National leader. It is ironic that many good National MPs are retiring to get back to a normal life but Labour can't budge it's deadwood.

If you had a salary by being a Labour MP, would you give it up? Remember, most of them would be unemployable in the real world. That's not the case with the National party.

If you had a salary by being a Labour MP, would you give it up? Remember, most of them would be unemployable in the real world. That's not the case with the National party.

He will be greatly missed, he has done a great job for New Zealands health.

Shows the difference between Labour and National MPs, doesn't it? The National MPs often have considerable value outside of politics so can return to good private sector jobs. Many in Labour, on the other hand, seem to have never held down jobs outside of politics, so would struggle to support themselves outside of the house. Georgina Beyer is in a council flat now, for example.

Tony has done a great job in difficult portfolios. He has been a model Parliamentarian of the Burkeian mould, so rare these days. He has my congratulations and best wishes.

National has managed its rejuvenation so much better this time than in 2001-2 under the disastrous stewardship of Michelle Boag. All strength to John Key for his handling of a change management process inside the party, which is never easy at the best of times.

We are well served by Ministers who see their role as making progress rather than a role for life with no achievements

Tony Ryall will be a great loss to the health sector. In Opposition, he studied the sector, immersed himself in it as deeply as he possibly could and has shown the benefits of such effort in Government. It is no accident that progress in the health sector since November 2008 has created little controversy or turbulence. He has taken a studied and careful approach to all decisions and has not been at the mercy of pressure groups, but has placed the patient at the centre of all his endeavours. Not all his decisions have been popular, but the large majority have been effective. The private sector of the economy will benefit from his participation.

I agree with all of the comments above about the career politicians who have nowhere to go after politics. Party list mediocrity has created a political class on the left who simply lack talent. Tony was of a different calbre altogether although he is wise to be getting out at this time. There is still a bit more to come down here in Dunedin regarding the Southern District Health Board and the Minister. John Key is a brilliant manager and deals quickly and brutally with mistakes. This may be such a case.