For the first time in a long time it looks to be an embarrassment of riches for the National party board selections. Last year the board, under pressure from caucus muffed their chances for a good president but instead elected a proven lazy man. Caucus diminished their influence by their lobbying, they won’t be listened to quite so readily again.
Today in Waitiangi though the choices for the board improved significantly with Alan Towers openly declaring his candidacy. He is the Chair of the Northern region, the largest and most critical region that National has. To fail in Auckland is to fail in New Zealand. The board knows this, the leader knows this and the members know this.
That makes Alan Towers the number one pick out of the 5 declared candidates thus far, but it also presents a dilemma. The Northern Region will easily lock in behind Towers and a small rump of Goodfellow loyalists and other disaffected groupings will split their remaining votes between Stephen McElrea (a relative unknown outside Auckland and viewed by some as a divider, though with some good ideas) and Goodfellow. Peter Goodfellow and McElrea will have to fish from the same small pond and those votes just won’t extend far enough to tip out Towers as Northern’s preferred candidate.
Lower North Island will vote for Malcolm Plimmer at number one and the South Island will fall in behind Roger Bridge. Central North Island can’t swing enough to upset the balance so the final three will rest on preferences.
Mr Goodfellow must surely now exercise some sensibility ad consider his position. The words “gracious exit” must surely ought to be muttered quietly to him, if not already then soon. My sources tell me that the 9th Floor want Bridge, however after the board election there is still some very capable candidates for president.
The two front runners though would be Roger Bridge and Alistair Bell. Both would be a massive improvement over what National has now. Bridge just needs a boot over his head in order to avoid repeats of his noisy oops last election. He understands the big picture, governance and would be a good fundraiser. It was Bridge that kick-started the Victory Fund that Goodfellow is trying desperately to claim credit for. However the true visionary is Alistair Bell, though it is by no means certain that he will put his name forward for president. Bell is smart enough to seek assistance where required and has a fantastic track record in Auckland, delivering in both 2005 and 2008.
First things first, the delegates at National Conference this year have , so far, 5 candidates to choose from to fill the three vacant places on the board. I will go out on a limb here and pick that they will finish in the following order:
Alan Towers, Malcolm Plimmer, Roger Bridge.
Stephen McElrea will come fourth ahead of Goodfellow on the simple basis that he will hoover up the remaining “anyone but Peter” vote. Peter Goodfellow will come dead last in the current field of 5, though close to McElrea. The other three will be a long way in front.
The board election will be exciting this year, even without perennial toy tosser Wira Gardiner participating.