My take on National’s proposed constitutional changes

Next month National’s Annual Conference will consider constitutional changes, arising from the 2020 review. I won’t be attending in person, but will use the blog to share my views in the proposed changes:

  • Bar Regional Chairs from the Board. Support. It creates a conflict of interest between managing the region and governing the party. The 2003 reforms were meant to change the board from being mainly Regional Chairs. The rule change should be grandfathered so not to affect incumbents and the method of implementation should be that a Regional Chair who stands and is elected automatically vacates their regional office. There is no need to bar electorate chairs as the conflict is far less for them.
  • Allow Appointed Directors. Have a board of 10. Six elected directors, two appointed directors and the Leader and Chief Whip. The recommended split of 4 elected and 3 appointed risks the party membership losing control of the board. Appointed Directors can complement elected directors in terms of skills. Appointed Directors should not be eligible to vote or stand for the Presidency. I do not support specific representative seats for demographics but would expect the diversity of the board (which can be gender, age, area, ethnicity, skills, knowledge) to be a factor in appointments. Appointed Members should be nominated by an Appointments Committee which would consist of the Party President and three or four others (who might be former directors). All directors should receive a (very) modest remuneration to reinforce this is a professional directorship.
  • Board Term of 3 years. Support. Have three members elected every non-election year for a three year term. This should be implemented for future elections only.
  • Board Term Limits. Support. It is vital one balances experience with freshness. In an absence of term limits and a propensity to vote for incumbents as they are well known, it can be difficult to have turnover. A term limit of 12 years seems suitable. This should not be restrospective.
  • Removal of office holders. Yes the board should have the power to remove office hodlers for cause
  • Election of President. My preference is for the election of president to return to the annual conference as this allows members to clearly signal the direction they want to the party organisation to go in. But as that it not being considered, then yes there should be a written process for the board to elect the President and of course a candidate should be able to vote for themselves.
  • Representative Body: It is sensible for the President and Board to meet regularly with the Regional Chairs and YN President. The Board can decide to make this a formal committee. I would not establish it as a constitutional body though as it risks becoming an alternate source of authority.
  • The Treaty. I support reference to the Treaty of Waitangi being in the Party’s constitution. But this should be along the lines of recognising it as the founding document of New Zealand (akin to the US Declaration of Independence). It should not be inserted as a source of legal authority.
  • Pre-selection committees. Agree board members should not sit on them as they need to remain independent in case of appeals. The Regional Chair should remain on the pre-selection committee and chair it. The President should continue to appoint two members.
  • Selection Committees. I would have a simple two tier system. Over X and the Electorate appoints all members. Under X and it is a board appointment. I would set X at 500 members and the selection committee ata minimum of 50, so 1 delegate per 10 members. The role of regional topups should cease as it gives immense power to regional chairs.
  • Candidate loyalty. I agree that once a candidate is selected for one seat they should be deemed ineligible to seek another seat in the same electoral cycle. There should be no waivers.
  • Whips. I agree the Chief Whip should be on the Board as the caucus rep and all whips should be elected by caucus in secret ballot with self-nominations rather than leader nominations.
  • Leadership Rules. The party should require the caucus to set and lodge with the board the rules around leadership ballots so they are known. So the board should not dictate or approve the rules, but require caucus has clear written rules. I would however have one constitutional requirement, which is no challenge to an existing leader can happen after 1 January of an election year. In my Patreon I outline the benefits of not allowing a leadership challenge in an election year. A major one is it would prevent media speculation on leadership changes at a time when the focus should be on the election campaign. If caucus thinks a change in leadership is needed, then they should do it at some stage in the two years prior to election year. But once we are in election year it is time to just get on with it and implement the campaign strategy. In fact in 85 years of National Party existence, there has been only one election year leadership challenge.

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