Turning up to a National Party conference often makes me wonder if I have arrived at a Grey Power conference by mistake. Obviously I haven’t because National Party members don’t look like whingers and don’t come over to complain to me about being horrible to that nice young Mr Peters who is treated so badly by the media. The balance of the room is grey, or if not grey dyed and in some well known cases having had extensive plastic surgery with a dash of botox on top, even the blokes.
Until Greg Hamilton came along the actual National Party membership was a closely guarded secret. In a heartwarming display of openness in what is usually a closed organisation, Greg has told members that there are about 28,000 members. What he hasn’t told us card carrying members is that there are more members over 80 than under 30, and that the median age is somewhere close to 70.
And while I am mentioning “card carrying” there really has to be more to membership than a little blue card and two begging letters a year from the President. Though I must say with the frost in Auckland the past few days the card has come in handy for removing ice from the windscreen.
The implications are obvious. National, without fresh recruiting, is in for a massive membership collapse. By 2022 a large number of current members will be dead, or infirm or senile. This is not a condemnation of people aging, it is just a statement of fact.
Rather than have a mass membership party National is moving to a much more United States style of loose party structure that supports candidates by giving them a brand, and a little organisational support but it will be important that they come to the party with a large team and some good donors as the party members will no longer be able to fund the campaign or provide volunteers.