The International Democrat Union was formed in the late 1980s by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and believe it or not Jacques Chirac. At a time when communism and socialism was till rampant it was a the first formal alliance of centre right parties with a strong focus on freedom and democracy. 25 years on it is amazing to see so many Eastern European countries now involved as members, as well as many parties from Africa.

Every three years they have a party leaders meeting, which is the supreme body, electing the IDU Officers etc. John Howard is the current chair. Those of us involved with the IYDU were allowed to attend as observers. However I got a wee bit of an unofficial promotion as there were two seats allocated at the top table for NZ, so I ended up spending the session up there with John Slater, former National Party President and current Deputy Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Democrat Union. It was with some amusement I later learnt that the French got upset as they only had one seat at the main table.

In the ANZAC spirit, John Howard came over to chat to the two Kiwis. He was very interested in the current issues in NZ, and the state of the polls since the budget. Unfortunately there were around a dozen TV cameras filming us while we chatted, so I had to be fairly careful with what I said. They took down our names, so may even have appeared on either US or Australian TV.

We were welcomed to the meeting by Ken Mehlman, who is the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mehlman does not fit your typical stereotype of RNC Chairs being grizzled elder statesman of the party. He is very young and dynamic

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