National Party selections are in full swing, as they try to get them all finished by early to mid April. Last Thursday there was a Meet the Candidates Meeting upstairs in the Backbencher at 5.30 pm. I popped in seeing it was on my way home.
The three Wellington Central candidates are Paul Quinn, Stephen Franks and David Broome. They all spoke and answered questions well. Obviously only one of them can be candidate for Wellington Central,but I hope more than one of them can make their way into Parliament. It’s great to see all over the country so many good candidates stepping forward.
These meetings are not public, so I can’t go into details, but I can reveal that I asked a question stolen from Grant Robertson’s blog – which was to ask all the candidates to name a policy they think would be good for NZ, but which would be unpopular.
Most people probably don’t realise how gruelling a National Party selection contest can be. So I thought I would use this post to explain.
First of all the selection meeting is made up of at least 60 delegates, based on a delegate for every 15 members in the electorate, plus a top-up if that doesn’t make 60 by the local Region . You have to have been a party member for at least six months to be a delegate. The largest electorates can have around 150 delegates at the selection meeting. The Head Office gets no say at all except they can veto unsuitable candidates at the pre-selection stages.
Now once nominations close, candidates get told who the delegates are. Because it is a defined group of people (unlike Labour where any member or affiliated union member can turn up on the night), there is intensive lobbying.
In a serious contest, each candidate will have one on one meetings with all 60+ delegates – lasting about an hour each. On top of that there may be half a dozen “cottage meetings” where a dozen or so delegates are invited to hear a candidate talk and ask questions informally.
Then you have the three formal Meet The Candidates meetings. All delegates must attend at least one of these, and they consist of 6 – 8 minute speeches from each candidate (with them all staying in the room for each other’s) and then questions from the floor which can be to one or all of the candidates. This can go on for some hours, and you can get some aggressive or tough questions.
Then you have the selection night, where each candidate has a ten minute speech, and then they have to answer two questions – one from the Leader and one from the President. The same questions go to all candidates, so they don’t stay in the room for each other’s speeches. Then you finally have the vote.
So a candidate for the nomination may end up doing 60+ one on one meetings, half a dozen cottage meetings, three meet the candidate meetings plus the actual selection meeting. It is no small commitment.