Ryall retires, completing the biggest ever rejuvenation for National

David Farrar
Tony Ryall

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.

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