The lawyer who could have been the new Attorney General under the National Party leadership and a well-placed member of LawFuel’s 2023 Power List has lost his chance to attain the top role in government as a result of the slim majority afforded to his party.
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National has secured 50 seats, but 45 are electorate seats leaving five seats for those on the party list, excluding James Christmas and the Party of one of their potential key members. Final results of course will depend upon the half million special votes still to be counted, but at present the ‘Christmas present’ to National is proving elusive.
James Christmas, a public and Treaty law specialist practising in Auckland had been eyed as both Attorney General and Treaty Negotiations Minister under the new government, but the current situation has scuppered that opportunity.
He was nominated by National earlier this year as a list-only candidate.
In 2016, Christmas was an adviser to Prime Minister Sir John Key on the intelligence agencies. After Key’s resignation Christmas worked as an adviser to the next Prime Minister, Sir Bill English.
He also worked closely with Chris Finlayson KC when Finlayson was Attorney-General, Treaty Negotiations Minister and the minister in charge of the SIS and GCSB intelligence agencies during the last National government from 2008 – 2017.
He subsequently co-authored a book with Christopher Finlayson, He Kupu Taurangi: Treaty Settlements and the Future of Aotearoa New Zealand.
He has also been writing a book about one of his political heroes, reforming liberal-minded Justice Minister Ralph Hanan, who famously abolished the death penalty in New Zealand in 1961.
“I had the privilege of working at the top of the government with him… what I got exposed to on a daily basis was all of government, policy, legal issues, cases and constitutional problems,” he said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald.
“It was just such a good apprenticeship.
“The good thing about Finlayson was that he treated staff as colleagues rather than as staff.
“We would throw issues around and debate them, and Chris’ expectation was, I think, that we would disagree with him. He always liked a good disagreement. He liked having his ideas tested.
James Christmas’s husband is James Carpinter, who is a former head boy of his former school, Burnside High, and works for a US-based technology company.
Christmas’ love of music and abilities as a pianist and musician saw him at Burnside, a school he believes has one of the best music programmes in the country.