Who could take over the Commerce portfolio?

Speculation is mounting that the retiring commerce minister, David Clark, will be replaced in next year's cabinet reshuffle. But who could take over?

If there is a new Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs next year it is likely to be the first-term, but economically seasoned, MP for Mana, Barbara Edmonds.

That is according to the political analyst Ben Thomas. Speaking confidentially, a Beehive insider made a similar point.

The current Minister, David Clark, is retiring at the next election.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, has flagged a cabinet reshuffle at the start of next year but there is no work on whether Clark would be replaced or kept on in a caretaker role until the country goes to the polls.

Thomas thinks that could happen, because Clark might be needed to shepherd supermarket reforms through parliament.

On the other hand, Thomas says the Prime Minister might want to signal renewal in a commerce portfolio whose standing relative to other ministries has subsided in recent years.

“If there was a replacement (of Clark) you would certainly be looking at Barbara Edmonds,” Thomas said.

“She is very highly respected in the party and outside the party as someone who has real nous in the finance and economics area.”

Edmonds was a tax attorney before entering parliament. She worked for the IRD, among other employers, and also served both National and Labour ministers as a financial adviser. She currently chairs Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

“It certainly wouldn't be a surprise if Clark was given a silver tray for long service and Barbara was brought into cabinet or as a minister outside cabinet, as part of a process of renewal and to show some new faces to the public,” Thomas said.

“It would also put a very competent pair of hands onto the portfolio.”

Thomas said it was not certain that Clark would depart in the cabinet reshuffle, but on balance, he thought it likely.

In contrast, Clark's opposite number in the National Party, Andrew Bayly, said Clark's loss of portfolio was far from certain.

“He's given no indication to me that he expects to be out of a job,” Bayly said, adding the supermarket reforms were too important for Labour to ditch the person responsible for pushing them through.

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