I have tended not to comment on national party candidate selections, even when I have strong preferences. It’s a decision for local members, and it is essentially a private decision.
But sometimes a selection may attract public headlines, as Rodney has done, or have a national impact – as oppossed to a local impact.
Whale Oil has blogged at length on Rodney. His exposure of what was happening helped the Board nullify the initial selection process, and re-open nominations.
First there is the issue of the electorate chair, as reported by Tv3:
The National Party chairman of Rodney electorate was a leader of a pro-white homeland South Africa party, it was revealed today.
The Rodney electorate has already been in the news over reports of infighting and allegations the selection committee was stacked, and the process has been restarted.
Today, TV3 political show the Nation reported that Rodney electorate chairman Cehill Piernar had been a leader of the Conservative Party in South Africa’s Orange Free State, and he fought to retain a white homeland.
The Nation showed documents where Mr Piernar said that if the party could not get the-then Apartheid Government to agree to the whites-only state, “the only option open to us will be to use violence”.
National Party President Peter Goodfellow said Mr Piernar was now a New Zealander.
“He’s in New Zealand now, we’re now a melting pot and people come to New Zealand and establish lives for themselves and he’s been elected by members in Rodney and became chairman some years ago,” he said.
Being electorate chair is a thankless task. Lots of work, no pay, and relatively minor influence. Mr Piernar has probably served in the background well for many years.
However his past is now in the public domain, and a past that advocated violence for a whites-only state is not a good one – even if he has since changed his views.
I’m a big believer that the party is bigger than any individual. Mr Piernar’s past has the potential to damage National. If I was in his shoes, I would put the party first and step down as chair.
Mr Piernar faced accusations of stacking branch membership within the electorate so a fundamentalist Christian accountant, Brent Robinson, could win the nomination for the safe National seat.
Mr Robinson’s candidacy is supported by members of the fundamentalist Life Church.
I don’t know Brent Robinson. All I know is that 150 members of a fundamentalist church signed up to try and help make him the candidate. To me that reeks of hostile takeover.
I’m all for aspiring candidates signing people up to National – but they should do that by door knocking and identifying National party supporters.
If a member of a rotary club sought nomination for National, there is no way I would expect 150 members of that rotary club join the party to vote for him. The fact that 150 church members have joined up suggests to me that it is because they wish to see National adopt their religious views.
I have absolutely no problem with MPs who have strong and deep religious convictions. In fact I consider several of them my friends. My problem is when they seek to legislate their religious beliefs on New Zealand.
I hope delegates in Rodney consider that their choice can and may have ramifications for the wider party. National will not continue to attract the broad based support it does today if it looks like it is going down a path of religious fundamentalism.
And it is on that topic we turn to North Shore, when Ewen McQueen is one of the candidates. Again I have not met Ewen, but he is a former leader of the Christian Heritage Party. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to keep Christian Heritage out of Parliament, and to be blunt don’t want them to enter Parliament as a National Party MP.
Having the former leader of Christian Heritage in a National Caucus would send tens of thousands of younger urban voters fleeing to Labour. Hell, even I’d consider giving Phil Goff a go if that is the case.
When Christian Heritage wound up in 2006, McQueen said:
Mr McQueen said parliament was lacking a political party that would make a strong and clear stand for the importance of family life, the primacy of marriage and the sanctity of human life …
Mr McQueen said that those who advocated working as individuals to espouse these values within other parties ignored the fact that our parliamentary system was essentially based on political parties. This was even more the case since the introduction of MMP
Mr McQueen should follow his own advice and re-establish a niche party based on his desire to outllaw abortion, civil unions and bring back the death penalty (all CHP policies).
The delegates in Rodney and North Shore have the ability to damage the party significantly with their decisions. I hope they consider their options carefully and elect people who will help lift the party vote for National, not scare voters off National.