Why National oppose running National candidates at local body elections

Vic Crone with National party president Peter Goodfellow

After National in drag, Auckland Future, and the centre-right contender Vic Crone got an absolute pasting in the uninspiring 2016 election there have been pushes for the National party to run candidates in the local body elections in 2019. This is standard practice in other countries, and NZ politicians have been told by their UK counterparts that they cannot understand why National do not run candidates.

Maurice Williamson was considering a run for mayor of Auckland, and did some polling on whether he could win. As Maurice Williamson he could not win. As Maurice Williamson?National he could win. John Key refused to let him run under the National banner so he did not run and the centre right ended up losing another winnable election.??

The National party conference this weekend will debate a remit saying National should run candidates at local government elections. This is being pushed by Auckland National party people, and failed candidates Lisa Whyte and Danielle Grant. It is unlikely to succeed.

The main reasons it is unlikely to succeed are twofold. Firstly, the National party struggle to raise enough money to run their own campaigns, so will not want to fund local government campaigns. Secondly, having local government candidates running as National is a huge risk to the leadership of the National party because a bad candidate doing dumb or illegal things will rebound on National, something that will not happen if they run for National in drag. While winning council seats may be a positive for National, if the dud candidates who want to run with the National brand run as National and lose, it is a very bad news story for National. It would call into question the popularity of leader Simon Bridges and National, and whether they are serious contenders for the 2020 election.

These reasons likely mean that no matter how much the membership want to run candidates in local body elections, it will not happen. If National are smart they will tell the candidates that they can use the brand IF they raise $2 million, use National-approved campaign managers and use National’s process for vetting candidates.

The $2 million will be enough of a barrier that the dud candidates who cannot beat lefties like Richard Hills and Wayne Walker will not be able to use the National brand.