Who to blame? Richard Harman has some ideas

Someone in National needs to be held to account for losing a seat they had held for 70 years.

Today is their caucus meeting and there is much to mull over, especially the actions of the campaign team during and post the campaign.

Richard Harman attempts to point the finger.

Was it the candidate?

The candidate, Mark Osborne, won selection largely on the back of votes from the northern end of the electorate centred on Kaitaia where he lives. Those votes were marshalled by Mr Carter.

Mr Osborne defeated the much more locally credentialed Grant McCullum from Wellsford who is also a member of the National Party Board.

The problem with having the north select the candidate is that the largest segments of the population live in the south, around the Bay of Islands and across to the west coast around ?Dargaville.

Kaitaia is over 80 kilometres away and Mr Osborne, who manages a Council facility there, is simply not a big enough name for the people in the south to know much about him.


On the campaign trail he looked a stunned mullet, plainly out of his depth with little charisma and nothing much to say.

But it would be unfair to blame him alone.

National badly misread the mood of the electorate and here the fingers get pointed more obliquely, more subtly at Mr Joyce.

Can’t really blame the candidate, any of the 5 who stood would have got steam-rollered.

A National campaign source said the team, recognising the mood in the electorate, wanted Mr Osborne to be more independent and even take on the Government on a few issues.

?That didn?t happen for some reason,? said the source.

That reason was almost certainly Mr Joyce who plainly saw the by-election as an exercise in defending the Government.

But he played it wrong from the beginning with his sudden announcement of the two laning of 12 one way bridges.

The electorate clearly saw that as a bribe and Mr Joyce?s first strategy of spreading Government largesse over the electorate had to be hurriedly curtailed.

This U-turn was so abrupt that Conservation Minister Maggie Barry went to the electorate to announce more funding for the kauri Dieback programme only to be told it was not be announced.

National had recognised the damage the bridge “bribes” were doing so it simply cut off a whole planned series of announcements of more spending in Northland.

Even in National?s caucus there was apparently scepticism with backbenchers asking what they had to do to get their bridges made two lanes.

?Resign,? the Prime Minister is alleged to have replied in a candid admission of the cynicism of the bridge announcement.

Steve Joyce has his fingerprints all over this campaign. But his boss didn’t help either.

John Key was out of synch with the electorate in other ways.

New Zealanders are not allowed to know why Mike Sabin resigned (unless they know which Australian websites to lookup) but John Key did and almost everybody in Northland seemed to have heard one rumour or another.

Those who had heard the rumours were asking why Mr Key had not acted earlier against Mr Sabin instead of saying he was a potential Cabinet Minister. When the legal process allows it, those questions will become more intense.

Watching Key?s walkabout in Dargaville on Thursday was revealing. Most of the people he spoke to were either protestors or National Party supporters. The general public stayed away.

Maybe the gloss is wearing off?

The teflon is worn through. only a fool would say that John Key won’t be affected by this debacle. He is still the leader of a party that lost a seat they have held for 70 years. The fact that he says he is “philosophical” about it says a great deal.

One person Harman doesn’t finger is the President, who by all accounts was missing in action. He is the head of the party though, and ultimately responsible, so perhaps he should reconsider his decision to go again for the presidency.

The Regional Conference season is upon us too, and these could get very interesting as people seek and demand answers as to how the party could have lost a safe seat. The President must give answers….so too must the board.

Perhaps it is time for the board to be cleaned out as well.


– Politik.co.nz