National Party members propose change
By Richard Harman (author)
A sign that the National Party membership want to see some changes in the party has come with news that there are now seven candidates seeking four positions on the party’s board.
The clear message is that changing the Leader last year was not enough.
More is needed.
To become a candidate, a person must be nominated by at least two electorates, and annual electorate meetings are in full swing now.
Four of the candidates are sitting members of the board; Andrew Hunt, Alastair Bell, Glenda Hughes and Pat Seymour.
The three new candidates are Grant McCallum, Stefan Sunde and Paul Foster-Bell.
There was a fourth, Sean Newland, but he has withdrawn.
There are a number of issues that lurk in the background of the contest.
The most immediate is the fall out from the Jami-Lee Ross situation and a feeling in some quarters in the party that both the board and president, Peter Goodfellow, have been slow to take over the issue in public and left the Leader, Simon Bridges, to front much of it on his own.
Bridges seemed to be making a pointed comment about this yesterday when he commented on the SFO action.
"I've seen the statement (from police),” he said.
“On the face of it, it seems to be about the National Party.
“The SFO is investigating.
“I think there are questions for them to answer and you'd hope in due course they'll do that.
"I expect the National Party to fully cooperate."
The new candidates bring their own agendas.
Stefan Sunde, the former President of the Young Nats, told POLITIK that with the nomination process still in play he didn’t want to make any comment.
But party insiders say his pitch to members has been to press his Young Nat background as an asset in focussing on the younger vote which the party now finds a lot harder to attract since Jacinda Ardern took over the Labour leadership.
Grant McCallum, a Northland dairy farmer, and well-known commentator on farming affairs is the chair of the Northland electorate which can boast of having won a seat off New Zealand First.
McCallum was on the board when the party was previously in Opposition and he cites that experience has something that he could bring to the board table.
Paul Foster-Bell is the former list MP and candidate for Wellington Central who resigned at the last election.
The fact that he has been nominated by two Wellington region electorates is in itself interesting since the region also is home to sitting board member Glenda Hughes who is up for re-election.
Hughes has her critics within the party, and Foster-Bell's nomination might appear to be a challenge directly to her.
But Foster-Bell puts a different light on his candidacy.
He sees his experience as an MP as valuable, and he believes that the Board needs to take more heed of what ordinary members of the party are saying.
“I think what has been lacking has been the democratic voice of members,” he told POLITIK.
Election to the board this time around may carry one additional perk --- under National's rules it is the board who elect the President, and there is a widespread view in the party that the current president, Peter Goodfellow, is coming to the end of his term.
Andrew Hunt, the Auckland regional chair who is also president of the Auckland Employers and manufacturers’ Association has long been thought of as a probable replacement for Goodfellow but McCallum’s candidacy, if he is elected, would bring another contender onto the board.
It is all subtle politics; but the message from National's grassroots with the number of candidates now competing, is that the membership would seem to want more substantial change than simply electing a new Leader.