National faces two potentially de-stabilising internal elections within the next four and a half weeks.
First, up will be a constitutional requirement for the caucus to confirm the party leader.
Though there are claims that Whangaparaoa MP, Mark Mitchell, has discussed the possibility of a challenge against Judith Collins with some colleagues, it would seem highly unlikely.
But the second election for the party’s board and then the president which must take place at its annual general meeting in Wellington on November 21 is more problematical.
There are five candidates for three positions on the board, and one is the current president, Peter Goodfellow.
Three of the candidates are from the Auckland region; Goodfellow himself; Grant McCallum, a Northland farmer and Leigh Morrow, a long time Auckland party official.
The two other candidates are Rachel Bird, the party’s Southland regional chair and David Carter the just-retired MP and former Speaker.
Presuming Goodfellow survives that vote the party board must then reconfirm him as president.
There are voices within the party that will be opposed to that.
Carter is believed to have told party members that he was interested in becoming President, but there are other potential candidates such as the Auckland chair, Andrew Hunt, who is not up for election to the board itself this year.
There is a mood for change among some party members.
One email from a former Minister received by POLITIK yesterday called for a “root-and-branch cleanout of the party organisation, a much more rigorous candidate selection process to avoid the embarrassments of the last few years, a rebalancing of the power and organisational arrangements between the caucus and the Party, a new Board and president, and a widespread policy platform review involving the grassroots of party supporters as well as the caucus MPs.”
Meanwhile, the review of the election campaign will address the candidate selection issues and possibly the relationship between the party membership and the caucus.
But as the post mortems begin, there are some issues emerging.
Candidate selection is a major. The embarrassments in Southland and Rangitata where sitting MPs had to be “exited” within a few months of the election raised questions about how they got to Parliament in the first place.
The ruckus in Auckland Central over its candidate selection and background threats of legal action raised the question of how much say the local membership should have.
There are certainly questions about the campaign and the former leader, Simon Bridges, seems to have struck a chord with his criticism of the lack of an overall message.
But the National Party is a conservative party.
It is not in its nature to go for radical change. It would seem highly unlikely that Judith Collins would be dumped in the next few months. Instead, the focus might shift on to Goodfellow, and his head may be the sacrifice.
In New Zealand First, the situation is more complex.
The party has been routed.
Winston Peters has gone to ground in Whananaaki, but sooner or later he will have to emerge to face criticism of his campaign from both his own MPs and also Labour.
Labour Ministers and staff tried to persuade Peters that his best bet would be to claim credit alongside Labour for the accomplishments – such as the Provincial Growth Fund — that the two parties had done together.
Instead, reverting to the political style that he has used for over 30 years, his campaign was negative.
His campaign often seemed aimless without any clear strategy; his “Back Your Future” bus tour spent days in South Auckland and only visited NZ First strongholds like Whanganui and Tauranga in the last fortnight of the election. The bus went to what is almost the party’s home base, Whangarei, on Friday before the election, after nearly two million people had already voted.
There is early talk among the party’s MPs of keeping the organisation going while they are out of Parliament.
Some like Ron Mark and Shane Jones have long seen the party as a provincial party; something like the Australian Country party.
But without a Parliamentary base, probably without Peters and with the shadow of the Serious Fraud Office court cases hanging over the party, any revival is going to be a tough ask.
Meanwhile, Parliament’s Speaker, Trevor Mallard, will consider a proposal from the Prime Minister that peters be allowed a special valedictory. That would require a unanimous vote from all MPs if it were to go ahead. Whether ACT and National would support such a motion could be an obstacle.
© 2020, FrontPage Ltd. All rights reserved.