National’s board is to meet today and will discuss the timetable for a new selection process for the Clutha-Southland electorate.
That has become necessary because of the decision of beleaguered MP, Todd Barclay, not to contest the election.
Barclay’s decision was greeted with relief by senior party sources contacted by POLITIK.
While it was recognised within the top ranks of the party that Barclay was the victim of an organised campaign against him, his position became untenable after Prime Minister Bill English released the notes of his interview with the police which confirmed that Barclay had confessed to him that he secretly recorded his Gore office staff.
That contrasted with his denials to the electorate that he made the recordings
Perhaps had it not been four days out from the party’s annual conference; perhaps if it wasn’t election year and perhaps most importantly, if the whole secret recording affair had not involved people close to Bill English, Barclay might have survived.
As it was, it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for a young MP who was naïve and who compounded that naivety with denials.
But a hint of how brutal the National party can be when its own political survival is threatened came with the statement yesterday from Finance Minister and Campaign Chair (and Barclay’s former employer) Steven Joyce that Barclay’s two statements on Tuesday on the affair “don’t match up”.
That was a heavy hint that it was all over for the 27–year-old MP.
Other figures in the whole affair appear to have survived.
The Prime Minister himself was last night at dinner with the Institute of International Affairs and made a wide-ranging speech about the forces that defined New Zealand’s foreign policy. There was no mention of the day’s dramas.
He’s made a difficult decision, but it is the right one,” English said about Barclay’s decision.
“He’s outlined the reasons he’s resigned. It’s been a very difficult decision for a young man to make and it’s a shame it’s come to this.”
English said he had not spoken to Barclay personally though some senior MPs had.
“My main regret here is that people I know well fell out so badly and it’s been an ongoing problem in different forms.”
National Party board member, Glenda Hughes, who initially tried to sort things out in the electorate but then apparently began to support Barclay’s opponents is expected to re-elected to the board this weekend at the annual conference.
There was talk of a challenge to her by former Wellington Central electorate chair, Richard Westlake, but that challenge has not eventuated.
The Opposition will not give up on this series of events. It is election year after all.
But for the meantime, Barclay has taken some of the pressure off.