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What’s next

  • November 9th, 2008

 There’s no substitute for being inside a Parliamentary party if you have a consuming passion for improving the law. Some plans and policies germinate there. Other policy seedlings are transplanted in. Whether germinated within or transplanted they can be fragile. Great solutions can be punctured in a casual instant. Stupidities may consume months of effort if that puncturing shaft is delayed. 

I badly wanted to put my 6 year Parliamentary apprenticeship to that good use. There are such opportunities and problems to work on – like restoring speed and certainty of consequence to offending, in fighting for ambition and quality in education, in committing to law that means what it says.
I’m disappointed but I deplore public whining. New Zealand gained little when we gave up the stiff upper lip.
So I’m looking on the bright side. I can earn more, and be master of my own time. I’ll find interesting clients and companies to work with doing things I’d otherwise never learn about. I enjoy company directing as well as public policy work.
When I left Parliament 3 years ago, I wanted to spend most of my time on public law (what Sir Geoffrey Palmer was best known for). I soon found that fear of vindictiveness from Labour scared a number of clients into keeping my help behind the scenes.
That constraint is now gone. With Sir Geoffrey chairing the Law Commission, and the reforming zeal of a government elected to change New Zealand in the face of a financial tsunami, there should be more than enough for public lawyers to do.


  • jamesw
  • November 9th, 2008
  • 8:29 pm

A real pity you didn’t take the seat Stephen.

I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on you – if you had stayed in ACT you would have been back in Parliament.

Can we expect another run in three years?

  • Allison
  • November 9th, 2008
  • 10:08 pm

Although you didn’t make it, the people of wgtn spoke, and many were behind you backing you.

Lets hope some of those older chaps finally retire, and free up that list place for you. We need you back there.


Sorry to see you didn’t make it Stephen-the one downer on a very good night.

I hope someone on the list above you does the decent thing and steps aside.

I think you’ll be back in Parliament before too long

  • George
  • November 9th, 2008
  • 11:20 pm


Its over. You might have swung and missed but by crikey you gave it your best shot. You have my respect and admiration and it’s not just your loss but New Zealands’.

Never mind, tomorrow is another day.

carpe vitae

  • Bullitt
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 12:37 am

My condolences Stephen. I have lurked your blog for along time but this is my first post.

To me it was the biggest dissapointment of the night. Im still at a loss why you were not a lot closer to the business end of the list. You picked a very hard seat to win and came very close.

I just hope you stand again in 3 years so I can vote for you again.

  • Faye
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 1:32 am

You didn’t make it Stephen because of your disgusting comments about gays. Your attitude is appalling.

The people of Wellington have spoken.

  • mike mckee
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 7:46 am

Thank you for standing Stephen and please give our thanks to your wife too as this wasn’t just a one person Indaba.

Whilst I too am saddened that you didn’t make it, your graciousness is not lost on this lurker.

  • Anabase
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 8:14 am

The mere fact that Grant Robertson got more votes than you, Stephen, doesn’t alter the fact that the vast majority of Wellington voters support you for your experience, your wisdom and your superior intellect. You truly are one of New Zealand’s brightest stars.

  • Dave2
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 10:07 am

“The mere fact that Grant Robertson got more votes than you, Stephen, doesn’t alter the fact that the vast majority of Wellington voters support you […]”

Uhh.. yes it does. Unless you define “majority” to mean something rather bizzare.

Not wanting to turn this into a fight, but seriously, some basic logic wouldn’t go a miss.

  • Pat McCarthy
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 12:06 pm

Stephen you have lost nothing.
You cannot lose something you never had.
You won the Party vote in Wellington Central for National.
You won the hearts and minds and votes of thousands of people.
You failed to win the electorate vote simply due to strategic vote splitting by the Greens.
I would estimate that if we had an electoral system that gave us first and second choice preferences (SM) you would easily have had the top ranking on first choices but GR scraped home on second preferences.

  • Anabase
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 2:26 pm

Dave2, I suspect you will find that Grant Robertson’s dirty tactics prevented many people from turning up to the polls to express their preferences for fear of the sort of intimidation by Labour thugs that Stephen has experienced in having his billboards torn down and his opinions subject to villification.

The idea that the people of Wellington Central would not support somebody as eminently qualified as Stephen to represent them is laughable. Stephen is an experienced politician, a skilled lawyer, a legal scholar and an extremely intelligent man. Now what possible explanation is there for somebody like that being rejected except voter intimidation?

The people of New Zealand have showed time and time again that they prefer experienced politicians with a deep understanding of the law to untrained novices.

  • Don
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 8:32 pm

I just have to respond to this. I feel very strongly.

Faye said:
> You didn’t make it Stephen because of your disgusting comments about
> gays. Your attitude is appalling.

I truly hope that’s not the reason.

> The people of Wellington have spoken.

Yes they have, and a plurality voted for Grant Robertson. Guessing that most of those who voted Green would have preferred Labour to National, one would think that Grant Robertson was preferred by the majority to Stephen. If you believe in democracy, then we got the right result.

I’m a person of Wellington, and I’m in a minority: I voted for Stephen. I’m not by any means a natural national voter, my politics is basically very left libertarian, maybe “social liberal” is the best description. My choice for the party vote was, bizarrely, a toss-up between the Greens and ACT. I vote strategically, and I mis-estimated the support that each would receive and so I think I made the wrong decision there.

I voted for Stephen on the assumption that we would end up with a National government, and that my job as a voter was to try to get the best such government I could. I am impressed by Stephen’s record of properly considering the effect of the wording of legislation, rather than it’s slogan or symbolic value. I think that had he been elected,
we would have been rewarded with better law.

Nonetheless, I can see plenty of good reasons that people could have voted for Grant Robertson. First is ideology. I reckon that a relatively high proportion of Wellingtonians believe in Labour
ideals. Perhaps it is suprising not that Stephen lost, but that he came so close to winning. I can respect people who vote in accordance with their truly held basic beliefs, even if I disagree.

Also, I voted for Stephen because I thought he’d make a good member of parliament. But, after all, the electorate race was for a representative of Wellington central. Many people here work in the
civil service, and they surely must be concerned that the new government may be planning cut backs. (Which I agree should be done, by the way.) It’s perfectly plausible, to me, that a Labour member would better represent those concerns. Again, I can respect that.

What I can’t respect is people who are swayed by a smear campaign. I have looked at the context of the “disgusting comments” that Stephen is meant to have made about gays. It seems to me that these were made in the context of rather forceful rhetoric about the possible effects of certain legislation, rather than an expression of homophobia. “Love is not enough” (and some unfortunate comments about dogs :-): I understand, at least, that the point is about couples (gay or straight), who do have love, but either choose to say “I do”, or not. It’s also an interesting question whether we let brother and sister say “I do”, or man and dog… And why not? And if not, we have to be very careful about the laws we write; once we legislate, the law can be a very blunt instrument.

Personally, I am convinced that Stephen does believe that loving gay couples should have equivalent access to the legal constructs that loving heterosexual couples do. I do wish he’d made this clearer.

In the end, there were good reasons for voting for either candidate for Wellington Central. I like to think that my fellow Wellingtonians voted the opposite way to me for good reasons rather than stupid reasons. I’m sure that most did, and that silly propaganda made no appreciable difference

  • John Ansell
  • November 10th, 2008
  • 10:53 pm

Stephen, it’s a long life, and the purpose of a defeat rarely reveals itself so close to the event.

To call it character-building would be a mistake in your case, as the Franks character has long been fully-built.

It was a brave attempt to go so close to wresting the seat of the civil servant from the reds.

The failure was your own party’s for being unable to recognise a deep thinker and true patriot and give him the ranking he deserved.

When the wounds are healed, might it be too much to hope for a return to ACT?

Now go and smash up some scrub!

  • Colin Lucas
  • November 11th, 2008
  • 8:49 am

Thank you for standing Stephen.
Good luck for the new direction in you career.

  • Jim Maclean
  • November 12th, 2008
  • 11:03 pm

I am very dissappointed not to see Stephen in Parliament. Despite strong differences with his economic policies, I believe he represents the very best in New Zealand politicians and remain dissappointed that National didn’t see fit to put him further up the list.
Enjoy the peace and quiet and the extra money that comes with staying in the Legal Fraternity. Good on you for having a shot and I do hope that next time you will blitz them.

  • Jeremy Laurenson
  • November 16th, 2008
  • 8:14 am


I’m really sorry that you didn’t make it. NZ would have been the better if you had. All the best for the future.

  • Andrew Jollands
  • December 9th, 2008
  • 2:10 pm

Hi Stephen

I agree with Pat you won heaps. Well done on a good campaign and for standing up and being counted. There are very few New Zealanders that do stand up for what they believe in and we’re worse off as a nation. I’m sad you’re not in parliament lending your voice of reason to the mix. All the best.

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