Ella Henry says National's front bench is far less colour blind this time

By Heta Gardiner, Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

What a line up for the refreshed face of National, with Ngāti Maniapoto and Te Kapotai represented at No. 4 and No. 5 in the shadow cabinet rankings.

"I am very pleased to be able to announce that Dr. Shane Reti who was yesterday announced as the health spokesperson is now ranked number #4," Judith Collins proudly told a press conference today.

Reti is the only MP who is a qualified doctor and practised in Whangārei for many years. He was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to Harvard University and completed his second masters degree there.

Former leader Simon Bridges has also been promoted back up the ranks after being rolled by the now-former leader Todd Muller 

Political commentator Ella Henry says the changes show a more inclusive National Party under Judith Collins.

"I think that this National front bench is far less colour blind than the last one was," Henry says.

'No diversity issue'

The new leader doesn't believe diversity was ever an issue for the party, "We've never had a problem with diversity. Everyone here is promoted on talent, on their work ethic and what they bring to our team," Collins says. 

"Diversity is also about diversity of thought and that is what I have put together."

Political commentators are saying the move looks like National's response to the pressure over the lack of diversity in the caucus.

"This is no doubt a response to pressure by the public,"  Eru Kapa-Kingi says.

"I believe Judith Collins understands politics and strategy well enough to know the party was harmed by the previous front line, which seemed really colour blind, which didn't seem to have any strong Māori perspectives front and centre, so I'd like to think that this shows that having a strong relationship with the Māori voter is an important part of moving forward," Henry says.

Kapa-Kingi says the inclusion of the two Māori MPs still raises valid questions.

Māori perspective?

"They may be Māori at face value but will we see more of a Māori perspective as a result of these two being ranked highly? That's really my burning question"

Does National have the team to become the next government? 

Kapa-Kingi says National may struggle to make the friends that are necessary to be successful in a coalition government.

Henry says if an election were held in the next few days there is not a coalition that could pip Labour at the post.

"I think they'll be looking to play the long game, not winning in 2020 but building their capacity for 2023," Henry says.