Labour is reviewing its controversial list selection process which last election saw Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davies, ranked at 18th on the list.
Because he was standing against a sitting MP (Hone Harawira) and because Labour’s vote share was always likely to be relatively low, the move to 18th was interpreted by manty as a move by the party to marginalise him.
But at the weekend’s conference he and Jacinda Ardern were the only MPs apart from the heavyweights, Andrew Little, Grant Robertson and Annette King, to feature on the main conference platform.
Party President Nigel Haworth was not giving away any hints as to how the changes might unfold.
But in a remarkably frank speech he cautioned delegates against closing the party off to people who wanted to join and of spending too much time looking inwards rather than out.
He told POLITIK that he thought the cumulative effect of three defeats had caused introspection.
“People have turned in on themselves to lick our collective wounds,” he said.
“But the effect has been to create less unity than we need and it’s also produced a lack of focus on winning in 2017.
“There are levels of noise that obstruct us focusing on that victorious 2017 campaign.”
One of the other challenges the party faces in building up to that campaign is to grow its membership.
Mr Haworth says that experience across the OECD shows that people under 40 are reluctant to join political parties.
He says that means the party has got to position itself for young people very differently.
“Lots of people agree with lots of what we say, or some of what we say.
“And they’ll vote for us and they’ll probably campaign for us but they won’t necessarily join.
“So just like the trade unions have got to think differently about membership, we’ve got to think differently about membership.”
And Mr Haworth is prepared to go a lot further than simply rethinking membership.
He’s keen to explore how to make the whole political engagement process relevant to younger people.
“How do we organise conferences.
“Could we have more openness with a narrower agenda?”
Next year will see the party begin its candidate selection process for 2017 and this had been troublesome for Labour in the past.
Mr Haworth said the party was now developing a new set of selection criteria.
He wasn’t prepared to elaborate.
“And we will in due course be addressing the list moderation process.
“That’s announced and the membership are now engaged in discussions on this.
“But we’re looking to streamline the process and to make it much more effective in terms of selecting for competence and in terms of the criteria that we’ve applied but also keeping a very strong voice for the membership in that process.”
Mr Haworth believes the party’s fundraising failed last year because it was not seen as a government in waiting in a credible fashion.
But he said the way the polls were no starting to go he believed that by the middle of next year fund raising would be a lot easier “as we begun to be seen as the party that will form the Government in 2017.”