High Labour list place for epidemiologist

The Labour Party list, released today, has placed high-profile epidemiologist Ayesha Verrall in 18th place - almost a sure bet to get into Parliament

Ayesha Verrall, a top epidemiologist who consulted on the Government's Covid-19 response and provided media commentary on the pandemic - including on Newsroom -  is ranked 18th on the Labour Party's list for the election.

That puts her just one spot behind embattled Health Minister David Clark, who has fallen eight places in the new ranking.

Verrall currently works as a senior lecturer in on infectious diseases at the University of Otago's Wellington campus and successfully ran as a Labour candidate for a seat on the Capital and Coast District Health Board in 2019.

Her expertise on contact tracing saw her called in to perform an audit of the health sector's ability to locate people who may have been exposed to Covid-19 during the waning days of the Level 4 lockdown.

In addition to media commentary, Verrall has also been featured by Newsroom in several video Q&As over the past three months.

"I'm standing because the pandemic has made clear to me that we can't afford to leave the job of improving our public health system for another day."

Speaking at the launch of the party's list, Verrall said she did not believe there was any conflict between her candidacy and her earlier audit of the Government's contact tracing processes, which took place before she submitted her nomination to Labour in May.

She said she had not provided any public comment to media about Covid-19 since putting her name forward.

Verrall said she had scrambled to put her nomination through in time given her Covid-related work; when her friend and Wellington city councillor Fleur Fitzsimons asked her to run, her reaction was: "Ask me when I'm less busy."

However, the environment New Zealand found itself in as a result of Covid-19 was a factor in her decision to run.

"I'm standing because the pandemic has made clear to me that we can't afford to leave the job of improving our public health system for another day."

Another first-time candidate, Eritrean refugee and community advocate Ibrahim Omer, said his time in New Zealand had started with cleaning and scrubbing floors but led to a degree from Victoria University of Wellington and a role with the Changemakers Resettlement Forum.

"I couldn't be more proud, the party that can select someone like me, the Labour Party, has always been about diversity, and today more than ever the party has proved that by picking myself and others."

Māori MPs back on list, but representation questions linger

The list has few other high-profile changes. Parliament's Speaker, Trevor Mallard, has jumped 22 places to 11th.

List MP and Hutt South candidate Ginny Andersen, now 47th on the list, down from 28th, may have to win the electorate off National incumbent Chris Bishop to return to Parliament.

Manurewa MP Louisa Wall, who was pushed out of her electorate in exchange for a promise of a high place on the list, is at 29th.

The new list also sees the return of Māori electorate MPs, who had chosen to go off the list in 2017 in order to better their chances of winning all seven Māori electorates.

That strategy was successful in the last election but will not be used again this year, even as a renewed Māori Party prepares to put up a fight in the Māori seats.

"The Māori campaign for 2017 was around political mandate from Māori voters and trying to increase the number of Māori coming in. This time around is completely different times, different context. We clearly want a strategy that retains all 13 Māori MPs and it is critical we retain all seven seats," Labour Māori caucus co-chair Meka Whaitiri said.

However, there are only four Māori MPs in the party's top 20 - a fact defended by Labour Party president Claire Szabo, who cited the need to reflect the current ministerial rankings.

"Labour has an absolutely unwavering commitment to its Māori MPs - I know that they're a very, very big part of our caucus, they are working together extremely well, and I expect that they will continue to do well in this caucus."

Labour Party president Claire Szabo speaks with new candidates (from left) Barbara Edmonds, Ayesha Verrall, and Ibrahim Omer. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

Labour 2020 List:

1 Jacinda Ardern

2 Kelvin Davis

3 Grant Robertson

4 Phil Twyford

5 Megan Woods

6 Chris Hipkins

7 Andrew Little

8 Carmel Sepuloni

9 David Parker

10 Nanaia Mahuta

11 Trevor Mallard

12 Stuart Nash

13 Iain Lees-Galloway

14 Jenny Salesa

15 Damien O'Connor

16 Kris Faafoi

17 David Clark

18 Ayesha Verrall

19 Peeni Henare

20 Willie Jackson

21 Aupito William Sio

22 Poto Williams
23 Vanushi Walters

24 Michael Wood

25 Adrian Rurawhe

26 Raymond Huo

27 Kiri Allan

28 Kieran McAnulty

29 Louisa Wall

30 Meka Whaitiri

31 Rino Tirikatene

32 Camilla Belich

33 Priyanca Radhakrishnan

34 Jan Tinetti

35 Deborah Russell

36 Marja Lubeck

37 Angie Warren-Clark

38 Willow-Jean Prime

39 Tamati Coffey

40 Naisi Chen

41 Jo Luxton

42 Jamie Strange

43 Liz Craig

44 Ibrahim Omer

45 Duncan Webb

46 Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki

47 Ginny Andersen

48 Rachel Brooking

49 Paul Eagle

50 Helen White

51 Barbara Edmonds

52 Angela Roberts

53 Shanan Halbert

54 Neru Leavasa

55 Tracey McLellan

56 Lemauga Lydia Sosene

57 Steph Lewis

58 Dan Rosewarne

59 Rachel Boyack

60 Arena Williams

61 Ingrid Leary

62 Soraya Peke-Mason

63 Lotu Fuli

64 Sarah Pallett

65 Gaurav Sharma

66 Emily Henderson

67 Terisa Ngobi

68 Kurt Taogaga

69 Kerrin Leoni

70 Reuben Davidson

71 Zahra Hussaini

72 Janet Holborow

73 Romy Udanga

74 Ala' Al-Bustanji

75 Glen Bennett

76 Monina Hernandez

77 Claire Mahon

78 Jon Mitchell

79 Nathaniel Blomfield

80 Nerissa Henry

81 Mathew Flight

82 Shirin Brown

83 Liam Wairepo

84 Georgie Dansey

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