Now it’s National in trouble over local body elections.
A year-long attempt to unify various competing pro-National candidates in Auckland under the Auckland Future banner has ended in failure with at least two organised competing centre-right organisations and a whole host of independent centre-right candidates.
Deep-seated personality disputes and rivalries appear to have derailed the attempt to form a single National-aligned centre right campaign vehicle.
And there are also questions over whether the National Party-aligned Mayoral candidate will even come second, let alone win.
In the latest move, the candidate, Victoria Crone, has withdrawn from a Mayoral debate to be held in three weeks by the high powered Employers and Manufacturers’ Association.
She told POLITIK she had already done one debate for the EMA and that it was important to get to as many different audiences as possible.
“So I am looking at another couple of events for that morning,” she said.
But her main opponent, Labour MP, Phil Goff will be there as will another centre right Mayoral candidate, Mark Thomas.
The Prime Minister has refused to endorse Crone though earlier on he attended at least one fund raiser for her.
He says he’s not endorsing any Mayoral candidates, and he didn’t last local body elections.
But Ms Crone’s campaign involves a host of National Party personalities.
Michelle Boag is said to have persuaded her to stand; Joe de Joux, a former National Party campaign manager is involved, and Auckland Future is run by former National Party President, Sue Wood.
And within party circles in Auckland much was made earlier in the year of the Prime Minister’s willingness to participate in fund raising.
“I’ve been to fundraisers. I go to fundraisers; I do different things to try and help people,” he said.
“But I do that behind the scenes.”
In fact, even within the Cabinet, there has been criticism of the Auckland Future project and POLITIK is aware of two Auckland MPs who did not support it.
Auckland Future was very much the brainchild of Auckland Central MP and Cabinet Minister, Nikki Kaye and with her, Auckland list MP and Cabinet Minister Paul Goldsmith. Goldsmith is also a former Auckland City Councillor.
Kaye believes that though Auckland Future may not have succeeded in being the sole centre-right vehicles in the election, it has still succeeded.
She believes that despite the infighting and the different tickets, there will be a centre right majority on the Council after the election and that was Auckland Future’s goal.
But she still believes in her original concept.
“I still think it makes sense to have a very strong centre-right brand,’ she told POLITIK
“I think regarding the overall mission Auckland Future has delivered on a few things.
“One, it has provided a policy platform.
“Two, it has provided quite a large number of candidates that people can see are definitely blue.
“And I think it’s perfectly healthy to have other independents and C and R people who will stand.
“it is a democracy.”
That, however, may be putting a very positive spin on what is a more complex situation.
Back in March, POLITIK attended a National Party meeting in Auckland where representatives from electorates across the city were critical of Auckland Future and defended the existing centre-right grouping, Communities and Ratepayers.
Senior party officials were optimistic that the two factions could form a coalition.
That didn’t happen.
Communities and Ratepayers went ahead with two big National Party names — Desley Simpson, wife of the party president, Peter Goodfellow and Christine Fletcher, Auckland Mayor and former National Cabinet Minister.
Auckland Future’s decision to stand a candidate, in effect against Ms Fletcher, in the Eden Roskill ward inflamed the situation.
There was a row on the North Shore with former Mayor and Councillor, George Wood, who Auckland Future tried to persuade to stand down.
Meanwhile independents like Listener columnist and National Party PR advisor, Bill Ralston, stayed as independents.
Ironically it is his contest in Waitemata which is thought to be the only likely centre-right gain on the Council in the election.
In a sense, all this is a storm in Auckland.
But so many big National Party names are involved that it has the potential to spill over nationally, possibly by harming some reputations.
Clearly, Ms Kay is one and the right wing blogger, Whaleoil, whose father ran Communities and Ratepayers during the time John Banks was Mayor, has already singled her out on his blog.
“Someone needs to be held to account. This someone is Nikki Kaye. It is her baby, her people, her exes and her strategic failings.”
But other inside critics don’t fault her as much as Ms Wood and Ms Boag who they claim alienated people with the way they went about things.
Meanwhile, the National Party organisation in Auckland has somehow managed to stay clear of the whole thing.
Auckland might need to take a lesson from Wellington where two Mayoral candidates with National Party connections, Jo Coughlan and Nicola Young (a former party member) seem to be competing without the acrimony and drama that has plagued the Auckland local body elections so far.