A guest post by Keeping Stock:
I had the privilege of attending a National Party candidate selection in Whanganui yesterday, and it was a most interesting experience. Four candidates had made it through pre-selection, the first contested National Party selection in the Whanganui electorate since Chester Borrows won the nomination in 1999.
Each of the nominees spoke for 10 minutes, then answered questions from the party president and PM which were handed to them in a sealed envelope. In the end, it may well be that the responses to the questions were the final determinant.
There was no clear winner on either of the first two ballots, and the lowest-polling candidate dropped out each round. On the third ballot, Whanganui lawyer Harete Hipango won the nomination ahead of Whanganui District Councillor Hadleigh Reid. She will be an outstanding candidate, and if elected, a terrific replacement for Hon. Chester Borrows. She is also the first Maori woman ever to win selection for a seat already held by the National Party.
But the best bit of the whole day was this; there were 60 voting delegates, all members of the National Party’s Whanganui branch. There was a presence from National Party HQ, but that was only to ensure that the rules were observed; the decision on a local candidate was made solely and entirely by local party members. Contrast that with Labour, where all too often Head Office has a major say, often trumping the wishes of the local membership.
I certainly prefer National’s method of selecting candidates to Labour’s; it is local democracy at work. Perhaps that’s why National pretty much has a mortgage on provincial New Zealand, with Palmerston North and Napier being the only provincial seats Labour holds. And as long as the local party members continue to have the ability to select a candidate they want, not to have to accept someone forced on them by Head Office, that’s unlikely to change.
As KS says, it is good when you have a decision made by local members, not head office.