Good stuff, members find their courage

For many years now there has be an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t challenge sitting MPs in the National party.

It is of course a silly notion, politics is all about blood and guts not kisses and cuddles.

The sentiment from head office and MPs is simply self interest…they want a nice tame membership and protection for incumbents. However as time moves on the group think that comes with first attaining power tends to wane and people get other ideas about who should or should not represent their area. Then the challenges come.

The first open challenge in quite sometime is happening in Kaikoura.

Marlborough grapegrower and fourth-generation farmer Stuart Smith is to challenge sitting MP Colin King for the National Party’s Kaikoura electorate candidacy for next year’s election.

The party opens nominations for its South Island electorates tomorrow and Mr Smith said he was putting his name forward. ?

Mr Smith, flanked by supporters Tim Leslie and Sturrock Saunders, said yesterday that he had been working towards this for nearly two years.

“I have been impressed by the groundswell of support for positive change in the Kaikoura electorate. My team has grown membership significantly and we are looking forward to the selection challenge.”

Potential candidates have until November 15 to get their nominations in, and the party was expected to select a candidate on December 17.

Mr King has been the National Party’s candidate for Kaikoura for three terms, first selected in 2005.

Whenever potential candidates have asked me if they should challenge a sitting MP I have said they should, with a few provisos. A carpet bagger generally doesn’t get a chance unless there is a stitch up like in Helensville. Everyone wanted Brian Neeson gone and all factions in Auckland united in a dance of the devil to oust him. The membership and the hierarchy were complicit in knifing Neeson in favour of John Key.

Judith Collins also gained her place in parliament via a challenge, rolling over the top of Warren Kyd.

Generally challengers win, especially if they have put in the spade work with the members. But Ruth Richardson failed in her challenge against Sir Roy Jack in Rangitikei before moving south and winning nomination in Tasman and then in Selwyn.

I’ve heard of a few more challenges coming up…I look forward to them. Challenges are a good sign the membership is restless and emboldened.

Right now Colin King has two choices…fight, or retire gracefully.