Richard Harman on National’s Auckland cock-up

Richard Harman gets right down to tin tacks in assessing National’s Auckland debacle.

The centre-left have now won control of the Auckland and Wellington Councils.

This will be a major morale booster for the Labour Party though Andrew Little was quick to say that it did not necessarily translate into improved chances for the party at the next election.

For National the result is more troubling.

There will now be a debate about why the centre right candidates so comprehensively lost.

In short, how did the centre right blow it.

And there will be a debate (again) about whether, like Labour, the party should become more involved in local body elections.

That may be particularly relevant in Wellington where two centre-right candidates with National Party connections stood for Mayor.

Everywhere else in the world centre-right parties are involved in local body politics. The Conservative party uses its own branding, the Liberal party in Australia uses their own branding. It is only here where a stupid and myopic National party refuses to budge, and then sits there stunned as Labour roll up the cities.

In Auckland, the situation is more complex.

What is clear is that the new centre-right group, Auckland Future, failed to deliver.

Only one of its candidates, sitting Councillor Denise Krum, won a seat.

In contrast, eight other centre-right candidates running as independents or under an assortment of brands won seats.

But the centre-left won 11 seats giving them a majority.

Most notably the old centre-right group which Auckland Future tried to replace, Communities and Ratepayers, won two seats — former National Cabinet Minister and Auckland Mayor, Christine Fletcher retained her Albert-Eden-Roskill seat, and Desley Simpson, wife of National Party President, Peter Goodfellow won election for the prosperous Orakei ward.

Things will be tense in the Goodfellow household after Peter ran around Auckland endorsing and supporting the very team who tried to shank his missus. He was at the opening of the Auckland Future campaign, drove Vic Crone around to National party AGMs and pushed their prospects. He too should be held to account.

Clearly, there were personal tensions and rivalries within the centre-right camp in Auckland.

Back in March a senior National Party source in Auckland assured POLITIK that a centre-right “coalition? was in the process of being formed.

It never happened.

Four well known National Party personalities were at the ehart of Auckland Future; Auckland Central MP, Nikki Kaye; former party presidents, Sue Wood and Michelle Boag and experienced National Party campaign manager, Hamish Price.

But importantly, National caucus sources say the group had only lukewarm support from Auckland MPs.

Ironically the idea of forming a group to maintain a centre-right majority on the Auckland Council had arisen with an Auckland MP, Paul Goldsmith. But he seems to have been sidelined as the Auckland Future group gathered momentum from the end of last year.

Goldsmith wasn’t sidelined…he could sniff problems and quickly disappeared himself from the debacle.

In an “off the record” briefing, late last year Auckland Future told POLITIK that early in the new year they would promulgate policy, attract money and find a high profile Mayoral candidate.

Instead, as this year progressed there began to be reports of long established local body politicians clashing with Auckland Future personalities and by all accounts, Auckland Future never really had any substantial funding, and it was separated from the Mayoral campaign of centre-right candidate, Victoria Crone.

There were issues over candidate selection.

North Shore MP, Maggie Barry, one of the few National MPs in Auckland to endorse Auckland Future, also endorsed their two candidates for the North Shore ward.

A few National MPs who got into the endorsement game should be hanging their heads in shame.

In the process of selecting those candidates, long time North Shore centre-right local body politician and former North Shore mayor, George Wood, after negtoaitions with Auckland Future decided not to stand.

His supporters said he had been forced out by Auckland Future.

Auckland Future?s National Party critics were yesterday saying if he had stood he would have won and that would have balanced the Council 10 ? 10 right-left.

Much of the criticism of Auckland Future focuses on Mayoral candidate, Victoria Crone.

She was unknown in National Party politics though she had been involved with the Labour Party before she emerged as the centrre-right Mayoral candidate.

She did not impress many National MPs in Auckland, at least one of whom voted for Phil Goff, and even when he was publicly invited to endorse her, the Prime Minister did not.

In short, the centre-right lost the election in Auckland.

This is what happens when you let two old witches dictate to the party. Some tar and feathers should be rustled up and Boag and Wood should be sent out of town on a rail. There needs to be an accounting for the debacle. My fear is there won’t be. National meddled in these elections, but they meddled in a stupid fashion. Serious questions should be asked by members directed at the board for their intransigence, and at John Key for his foolishness and Peter Goodfellow for his stupidity.

Harman left one person out on his list of people to point the finger at…Jo de Joux. After screwing up Northland she was let loose in Auckland and screwed that up too.

 

– Politik

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