Now is the best time to join National

Haydn Marriner is a Rotorua tourism operator and political junkie.

If you ever wanted to know when it was the best time to join the National Party, it's now.

The party is shedding senior MPs like a dog sheds fur - the old and smelly stuff giving way to a fresh, glossier coat.

Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett were both reading the tea leaves and have opted to leave rather than face the possible humiliation that their list placings won't be high enough to get them back into Parliament.

National is polling badly again, this time the numbers leaked by National Party caucus members look like 55 Labour - 34 National. Those numbers are outrageous and in no way should the electorate believe that's going to stand.

National has held around 40 - 45% for the last decade. They slumped under Bill English to half of that back in the day, with large numbers of National voters leaving to ACT, a mistake they won't make again, so expect that National will hover around the 40-42% mark again.

Which means unless you're in a safe seat or the top 20 list candidates, you could be out of the job if you're a National Party backbencher.

But if you can win a tight electorate seat and you're Maori, with a little social grace, you could make your way very quickly up the ranks.

National has huge image problems when it comes to diversity at the ballot box and they can't promote anyone of colour that's already elected up to the front bench, because they've already stated that they weren't good enough in the first place.

So for a new candidate, this presents a huge opportunity.

National is dead in the water and they know it, just look at the continued mistakes they make. But it's their current MPs that are causing the damage to their party.

In-fighting, which is now out-fighting, off message and off-brand are part of their daily failures. That doesn't mean that they are all bad but when you get caught lying as Michael Woodhouse has been, your party's credibility takes a hit - just look at what happened to Labour's former health minister in the last few weeks.

For new candidates, should they manage to get elected, they come into

parliament fresh, without the stain of Simeon Brown, Simon O'Connor, Chris Penk, Woodhouse, Muller, Bridges or Bennett all over themselves and can't be associated with this nightmare of a campaign National are waging.

The New Zealand media will most likely trumpet evangelical Christian Chris Luxton to kick start the heart of the ailing blue rinse beast that is the current National Party.

He's the guy that took over Air New Zealand and did not much remarkable with it. He's being shopped around as the second coming of John Key, so it's a safe bet at some point another leadership coup will occur and a new Luxton-led regime will begin.

As the new leader, he will have to quickly fix a few issues. The first being he'll need some diversity in his line up and he'll need more women. It's low hanging fruit and its issues any major party in New Zealand should never have.

This places Tania Tapsell in an ideal spot if she wins her East Coast seat.

She's young, Maori, smart and most importantly of all, not associated with the debacle raging within National at the moment. She's going to have a hell of a battle for the East Coast seat, as she's contesting it against popular MP Kiri Allen, who is also Maori, female, young and smart.

Whoever wins the seat will go on to much bigger things. Whoever loses the seat however could be facing being shuffled sideways instead of moving up, as the shine will be taken off their star.

Expectations are high and rightly so. Kiri needs to win to cement her position as the rising star in Labour. Tania needs to win for the same reason, but for National.

The pressure on this seat for these two talented Maori wahine is huge and probably the most fascinating electorate race of them all because so much is at stake for these two candidates, without actually impacting their respective parties.

For Kiri, the road ahead is obvious, ministerial you might say.

But for Tania it's different. She needs to win to get herself in a position early in opposition. This isn't a bad thing, cutting your teeth in opposition.

You get time to learn the processes, the political moves, how Wellington works and you get time to build relationships with your caucus.

National at some point will be in a position to take the treasury benches, and that's where the big wins can be made. A rookie now, in six to nine years is a 'safe” pair of hands and shoo-in for ministerial positions and a maybe even potential for leadership roles.

But what is obvious, is that anyone new to National after this election has a remarkable chance to restart a party whose current MPs are being seen in the public as untrustworthy scaremongers.

It's a huge chance to change the direction of New Zealand's largest, wealthiest political party and like Labour, maybe it needs a strong, female leader.

Tough ask though, for any female, she will have to weather a sea of pale, stale, males who are embedded at the top of the party hierarchy. I wish all the women in National the best. If there was ever a time to make a change in National it's now because it's most definitely needed.



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