National does not involve itself in local body politics, except for Bill English and nepotism [UPDATED]

Bill English's sister in law

Bill English’s sister in law

Finance Minister Bill English has made a rare intervention in Wellington local body politics backing his sister in law for Mayor.

But he says he has done so because he believes she is the best candidate.

However in doing that he has ignored one other candidate with long National Party connections and another who is being backed by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking to a fundraiser last week for Jo Coughlan, who is married to the Minister?s brother, former Federated Farmers CEO, Connor English, the Minister said he wasn?t supporting her because? they were related.

?It?s because I think that she?s the best candidate for a city that needs this kind of candidate; someone who understands growth; someone who understands communities and someone who understands families.?

But even so, that such a senior member of the Cabinet has publicly endorsed a Mayoral candidate goes against National Party practice.

And against the express orders of John Key and party whips.

Though Ministers have been involved in setting up the Auckland Future group, senior Ministers like the Prime Minister and, ironically, Mr English, have said nothing in public about their preferences for the Auckland Council elections.

Mr English?s endorsement also cuts across the campaign of Councillor Nicola Young, who is also standing for Mayor.

Ms Young is part of a National Party dynasty. Her father, Bill, was MP for Miramar and one of her sisters, Annabel Young,? has been a National MP while another, Rosemary, is married to Max Bradford a former National Minister.

She says she is not seeking endorsements from National Ministers that she is standing under on her own record as a Councillor.

It would have been much better not to endorse the sister-in-law publicly.

The phone started to ring with other National Party MPs whining that they were explicitly told, almost threatened, that the National Party does not, ever, get involved in local body politics.

Bill’s appearance will have made no difference to the number of votes his sister-in-law will get, but it has resulted in resentment and pressure for others to now put their time and resources behind candidates up and down the country.

By themselves, Mr English’s comments are relatively non-controversial, but the message was not lost on the guests assembled at the Wellington stockbroking office for the fundraiser; vote for Ms Coughlan and you get her brother in law as well.

How that plays in the wider National Party is open to conjecture, but it is possibly going to create some ripples.

Yep.? It was a dumb move.


UPDATE: A spokesperson for Wellington Chamber of Commerce has emailed with this statement:

Wellington Chamber of Commerce does not and will not support any?individual candidate for the mayoralty. On mandate from our members,?we support only those policies that promote and enhance the economic?wellbeing of the city and the surrounding region. From time to time we?organise events where our members and others can examine the policies?on offer.


– Richard Harman, Politik