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National’s diversity problem

Written By: - Date published: 9:03 am, April 30th, 2022 - 71 comments
Categories: Christopher Luxon, national, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags:

National’s short list of candidates for the Tauranga seat has been released.  And it is clear that its gender and ethnic representation problems will be made worse after the selection process is completed.

From Kiri Gillespie at the Herald:

A city councillor turned real estate agent, a Tauranga Business Chamber boss, a council analyst and a financial crime investigator have all been shortlisted as potential National Party candidates for the Tauranga byelection.

Kelvin Clout, Matt Cowley, Tom Rutherford and Sam Uffindell are up for final selection. The successful candidate will fill the National Party Tauranga candidacy and contend the city’s upcoming byelection, prompted by the resignation of Simon Bridges.

National campaign chairman Todd McClay said all four men were strong contenders.

Clout, a Tauranga City councillor before the appointment of commissioners, is a real estate agent, Cowley has been chief executive of Tauranga Business Chamber for nearly three years, Rutherford is an analyst at Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and Uffindell heads the financial crime unit at Rabobank and is a local agribusiness owner.

My first impression was surely this is a wind up.  Surely National has at least one viable candidate in the area that is not male and pakeha.  Its short list is meant to contain up to five candidates, and there was a rumour that former MP Dan Bidois, who is Maori, was interested.  If so why did he not even make the shortlist.

My second impression is that this is no longer John Key’s National.  Under Key’s leadership National made a virtue of making its caucus appear diverse.  As I wrote in 2017:

[National has] made an art form of getting away from the old perception that they are a bunch of bigoted anti diversity conservatives. The loss in 2005 when Don Brash talked about Mainstream New Zealanders and confirmed that this group did not include people who were not white or born overseas showed how important the strategy is.

Since then National has been very careful to cultivate ethnic candidates and have sent them out to spread the word.  Candidates such as Melissa Lee, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Jian Yang, and Alfred Ngaro have done the job for National.

If you look at National’s list from [the 2014] election the strategy is clear.  Slots 31 to 34 were reserved for ethnic candidates.  Neo conservatives no longer care about race.  The only battle they are worried about is the battle between the top 1% and the rest of us.  Every other dividing line, gender, sexual preference or ethnic origin is irrelevant.

It is not as if Chris Luxon does not understand that National has a problem.  As reported shortly after he took over as leader:

Asked … if he was looking to achieve some ethnic diversity with his front-bench of 12 MPs, Luxon noted the caucus itself lacked ethnic diversity.

“Well look, I mean, the reality is, when you look at our caucus today it’s not ethnically diverse, right, and that’s because we got a much poorer result in the last election than we had planned,” Luxon said.

National won 23 fewer seats in Parliament in 2020 than 2017 and was left with a far less ethnically diverse set of MPs.

Indeed, the party is now overwhelmingly Pākehā, with just three MPs of Māori descent and one MP of Asian descent.

The National MPs who survived the election were largely in safe seats, whose members have typically picked white candidates. Simon Bridges was the only successful non-white electorate MP, out of 23 National electorate MPs.

It looks like after this selection, and presuming National wins, all of its electorate MPs will be pakeha.  And a startling opportunity to display a commitment to ethnic diversity has been lost.

71 comments on “National’s diversity problem ”

  1. Ad 1

    Seriously mate have you been to Tauranga? It's whiter than Wanaka.

    • lprent 1.1

      It may be now. It wasn't when I was going there 40 years ago. After all this was the electorate that put Winston Peters into parliament in 1984.

      Assuming that you are correct… You have to ask yourself what caused the diversity to leave?

      Or were they just swamped with diverse adverse importing themselves?

      • Belladonna 1.1.1

        Peters was pretty much elected by the Grey Brigade (the Nanas thought he was just lovely). Mostly white, middle-class and over 65+
        It's changed a bit – in that the boom in growth has brought a much younger age-bracket (30-50, rather than 66+) – but not exactly a bastion of cultural diversity.

        • lprent

          Back in 1984 ? When he was elected as the young National MP for Tauranga?

          I suspect you’re completely confused about your timelines.

          • Belladonna

            Gotcha. Sorry about that. I was referring to when he stood as an independent and then for NZ First, in 1993.

            When he first stood for National in 1984, it was an absolutely safe National seat – they could have put a donkey in, during those FPP days and it would have been elected. [That's not an unkind cut at Peters, but some other candidates in 'safe' seats were lifelong backbenchers and 'yes' men for their party]

            Peters at that time, and fairly consistently subsequently, rejected 'race' as a basis for decision-making – and was an advocate for the best man for the job. He wasn't selected by Nat for Tauranga because he was Maori – but because he was one of the rising band of Young Nationals [somewhat ironically, considering his future career]

            • lprent

              He first stood for National in Northern Maori in 1978 (I think), He then stood fro Hunua. Tauranga was his third seat attempt fro National.

              Contrary to myth Tauranga wasn't a safe National seat until after MMP expanded the electorate outside the urban area.

              Have a look through https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tauranga_(New_Zealand_electorate)#1981_election

              In the 1981 election, Social Credit were just ~2200 behind National, and the Labour vote was 4338. National won with ~43%

              Winston did much better in 1984, But the opposition vote was split between pretty evenly between NZ Party, Labour, and Credit, and in combination was ~58%. He lot National votes – admitably in a very anti-National election.

              It wasn't until 1987 that Winston got a clear majority of ~53%, and in 1990 with ~66%.

              In the 1993 by-election, he (and I do mean he) got thumping victory of ~91%. On the other hand none of the major parties put up a candidate. The leading opposition candidate was from McGillicuddy serious. In actual 1993 election, he got 55%.

              The MMP electorate got quite a lot more National over time.

      • Ad 1.1.2

        Also Bridges part Maori

  2. Belladonna 2

    National playing to their base (candidates predominantly small/medium business and local); just as Labour has (Tinetti is a teacher and, again, a local)
    Tauranga is an …. unlikely … place to be looking for a 'diversity' candidate.

    Interesting about Bidois. He's fairly active on the local Facebook pages – makes me wonder if he's going to have another tilt at Northcote. Halbert is not at all secure if there is a significant drop in Labour support.

  3. Jester 3

    All this diversity BS makes me laugh. Get the best people for the position whether they be black, white, brown, male or female. Too much diversity and you end up with MP's like Poto Williams or Kelvin Davis who are clearly promoted beyond their means and not on merit.

    • pat 3.1

      Diversity is not a prerequisite for incompetence.

    • mac1 3.2

      'clearly promoted beyond their means and not on merit'."

      Jester, do you have a list of the evidence that you could show that 'clearly'?

      Ir is not enough evidence to show that for example Poto Williams has been attacked by National. Police/ law and order are bread and butter concerns for National. I'd expect such attacks.

      Was there substance for those attacks? If so, I'd like to see the stats, the evidence, that you say is so clear.

      The second issue with your comment that I note is about "Get the best people for the position whether they be black, white, brown, male or female." That bone needs to pointed at National. They can't even get the best people from the ranks of Pakeha males, as the locals here, National members included, will say about their latest do nothing MP in a safe electorate.

    • Descendant Of Smith 3.3

      Clearly the best people to represent white well off conservative capitalists are white (predominantly male) well off capitalists.

      I can see why the concept of diversity makes you laugh.

    • Puckish Rogue 3.4

      Hey now I can tell you that Corrections Officers hold Kelvin Davis in the highest of regards and we categorically deny any notion that he's a crim-loving, jumped up little fuck knuckle that has no idea of what he's doing (especially hiding him at question time) or that he brags (on Facebook posts) about lowering the prison population by releasing crims early or directing more crims do community service or detention etc etc

      We all thank our lucky stars we have someone like Kelvin Davis as our Corrections minister

      • Jester 3.4.1

        That's good to hear re: Kelvin. Many police do not hold Poto Williams as highly regarded.
        My opinion only, but I think Andrew Little would be better suited to Poto’s portfolio.

      • The Al1en 3.4.2

        Prison guards don't strike me as the most intelligent among us otherwise they wouldn't be prison guards.

        An aspirational position for mall security guards wanting better pay.

        • RedLogix

          Despite working in a high tech environment most of my life, I have also been alongside solid working people as well. (For instance a season in a shearing gang in West Otago in the 70's.)

          IQ is a fairly narrow measure of human capacity – it tells us how well a person can manipulate abstractions, and given that many professional and technical roles requite this ability, it has some utility. But is sure is not the whole story.

          But equally I have also encountered many, many men who earn a living mostly working physically who are whip smart, very capable and are no fools when it comes to seeing through human nature. The sort of person who has the grit to keep our prisons safe and functional most of the time. And work I am certain I would not last 10 minutes trying to do.

          • Puckish Rogue

            Actually you'd be fine, you've worked with many different people from all different walks of life.

            Thats a good start right there

          • The Al1en

            Don't worry, I was only only having a cheap laugh.

            Though with regards to iq being a measure of capacity, taking the human example out of it, to which I wholly agree with, and like those whip smart bs detectors, they'll be some very clever convicts who can suss out failure in the system and help hold a lid on things – Though of course I wouldn't want any of them doing surgery on me and I'd take a blowhard scalpel slicer any time, likewise while I input from the coal face is necessary to shape procedure, I wouldn't use it to shape policy around prevention or solutions to the social ills that cause them.

            I know PR is way right of me politically, and I accept that we'll never agree on many issues, but criticism about Kelvin Davis as minister from the cheerleader lauded for double bunking and containers, yeah, that's probably not going to work. 🙂

        • Puckish Rogue

          How many Corrections Officers have you met?

          • The Al1en

            I googled famous prison guards. Top hit from 40,600,000 results

            You might get a bit of reflective glory in number two. lol

            1. The Green Mile – Paul Edgecomb
            2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Dementors
            3. The Longest Yard – Captain Knauer
            4. The Stanford Prison Experiment – Christopher Archer
            5. The Shawshank Redemption – Captain Hadley
    • mpledger 3.5

      Governing (and hence politics) is a team game. You want the best team. Sometimes the "best" candidate adds nothing to the team that isn't already there.

      The best team brings a diversity of views and ideas to the table, a diversity of skills, and can speak to a wide range of the electorate's views and needs.

  4. KJT 4

    A "Financial crime investigator" running for National.

    Delicious irony!

    They do say, “firemen are the most effective arsonists”.

  5. I know next to nothing about Poto Williams. But I have seen Kelvin fronting up on issues where he's articulated a less popular but more principled position.

    He has been elected to represent a Maori seat and I'm sure he has the confidence of the Maori caucus of which he is the convenor (in English). If he had to take the tiller of the whole whaka you can count on a steady hand despite the storms to come.

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    Well it is Towel–wrong–gah…as Ad pointed out. My first impression from photo was–they are all in bloody real estate! with their standard “Harcourts Blue” suits.

    If people can actually vote for this variety of tosser in 2022 it really is on them! Which one sends dick pics, which one undermined a female candidate, which one does dirty tricks on social media? We shall find out soon enough I guess.

  7. Patricia Bremner 7

    Jester "In your opinion".

    The last 4 National leaders were/are lacking inclusiveness, and the cookie cutter types picked according to prescription are actually representative of their constituents. Tauranga has become 82% European.

    I could not agree more "Go for the best people"

    Unfortunately Goodfellow has made some right royal errors in past selections.

    Todd MacClay is hardly likely to do better in my opinion. It is hard to find anything he has done for Rotorua.
    Oh the Mayor included him in opening many of her projects.
    Apart from Todd telling us “Housing the out of town homeless was ruining Rotorua City” shades of “Bottomfeeders” He seems to have followed Paul East who would turn up for the "photo" op while presenting a cheque.

  8. Patricia Bremner 8

    In her defence Poto Williams has had an ever changing role during the Pandemic, as the Police helped with road checks and various incidents at hotels involving selfish people who would not isolate or lockdown.

    The idea of supporting prisoners in the community has meant a greater work load.

    The promise of extra recruits, training in community work and having revolving teams to mitigate the force getting covid all factors.

    Many people became fractious or downright anti during the two years so again further causes of stresses and actions by the Police dealing with incidents and protests.

    The arrival of 501s from Australia, their gang formation and clashes here further stresses the situation.

    We are seeing children aping their elders and creating havoc. A very difficult situation.

    Poto Williams is attacked by misogynists and right wingers as "hopeless". This is how they operate, in sneaky cruel ways. Some don't even bother to hide, emboldened by their fellows.

    • Anne 8.1

      Hi Patricia,
      Years ago, I went through something not un-similar to what I suspect is happening to Poto Williams. In short, a couple of haters ganged up on me. They played some very nasty tricks on me, set me up to take the blame for things they were responsible for, and made false claims. They caused others to become antagonistic towards me. Over time it sapped my confidence and self-esteem and it took me a long time to recover.

      I think this is what is happening to Poto Williams. She seems to be having difficulty communicating with the media and this will be, at the least in part, because she is terrified that anything she says (or does) will be misconstrued and turned back on her. She may well be a competent minister but the public only sees the verbal public stumbling and the right wingers snap it up as evidence of her supposed incompetence.

      It's not just misogyny. It is raw hatred and malice – not unlike what Jacinda Ardern is experiencing – which we have come to expect from that portion of the right wing community that Cameron Slater and Co. once represented.

      • Patricia Bremner 8.1.1

        Very true Anne. It is soul destroying stuff and probably why the Nats can't get many willing to front that. I had personal experience of 7 years of misogyny at work. Rising above it takes real willpower as it does shake self belief badly. Imagine having to work with someone like Woodhouse with his toilet seat gags!!

  9. Oh for goodness sake, of course its more diverse. I can see a couple of short guys and two taller guys. What more can you ask for? /s

    • Tiger Mountain 9.1

      Always a challenge getting good candidates for any party I guess, the natzos born to rule attitude perhaps makes their blunders more obvious.

      A few years back in Northland electorate Mike Sabin was chosen over a local farmer Mark Tan. I thought typical, ex copper, disgraced even within the force via his transfers, chosen over an allegedly modern farmer. Of course Mr Tan later washed up as Principal of Kaitaia Abundant Life Christian School, and took a long sabbatical which included the Convoy Wellington occupation of Parliament because he was anti vaccination.

      So really it is the tory mindset and world view that is the natzos problem–it is very difficult for them to attract or select candidates that truly exist in 2022.

    • mac1 9.2

      Your comment put me in me of Malvina Reynold's song, "Little Boxes".

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUwUp-D_VV0 Pete Seeger's verison

      "There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one and they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same,"

  10. Chris T 10

    Pretty weird post, The National dude they will probably replace is Maori.

    Must be Horrifying though given Labour's massive diversity putting a white lady with an Italian last name.

    How diverse of them.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    The fact that diversity in appointments is even a topic of discussion suggests problems at a much more fundamental level that haven't been solved.

    I see appointments on the basis of diversity, if it compromises selection of the best candidate for the role, as undermining the effectiveness of the role. The way I see it, appointments on the basis of diversity are merely window dressing or a band-aid that show that the fundamental problems still exist and haven't been resolved.

    The question for me is, why is diversity even a consideration? That is, given a free and fair selection process, why are not sufficient numbers of diverse candidates who are also the best candidates coming through the selection process? If that were happening, then diverse candidates would naturally be selected to roles in sufficient numbers and we would not be having this conversation.

    Thus, I see this "diversity badge" as a bit of a facade that political parties like to display to make themselves feel good and righteousness more than anything else.

    But if it becomes an excuse not to answer the more fundamental question, and take steps to resolve issues at that deeper level, then the result can only be weaker, less effective teams if it means that team effectiveness is being sacrificed at the alter of PC political correctness.

    • Descendant Of Smith 11.1

      Nonsense. Diversity brings different perspectives which in a fast and changing world means that different solutions can be proffered and considered. This has nothing to do with being PC (which is predominantly a meaningless disparaging term used by the right to reject ideas they don't agree with) .

      Most of modern society is organised around division of labour – we can't all be expected to know everything about everything. A white middleclass European living in Epsom is not likely to know or bring an understanding of Maori concepts or have ever regularly been on a marae. A Pacific Island MP will often bring knowledge and experience of racism that will be important in considering legislation.

      Then there is the issue of visibility and engagement in the political system by voters who need to see themselves in parliament. We want voters to be engaged in democracy – not see it as something for those people who don't look like me.

      There is really no such thing as "the best person for the job". The notion that there is is delusional. There are always lots of choices influenced not only by skill and knowledge but personal connection, timing and a range of other reasons. There is always lots of change during a parliamentary term that will mean different ideas are needed – the pandemic has shown that with quite different skill-sets needed at all levels than pre-pandemic.

      There may be good reasons for putting in someone who might not be the best now but strategically will be really good in the future (succession planning) or retaining someone to pass on their institutional knowledge to those coming through.

      Business is starting to understand this as well.


      "In a study published in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, the authors analyzed levels of gender diversity in research and development teams from 4,277 companies in Spain. Using statistical models, they found that companies with more women were more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market over a two-year period."

      BTW "alter of PC political correctness" is quite unintentionally funny.

      • tsmithfield 11.1.1

        I don't disagree with you. And sometimes aspects of diversity may help the performance of a particular role, and therefore is a legitimate consideration in filling roles.

        This works where there are candidates of equivalent ability in other respects. Where it doesn't work is where the perceived need for diversity results in clearly suboptimal candidates being selected over significantly more competent candidates for the sake of diversity.

        This is where I think the quest for diversity can be problematic and indicates problems that need to be solved at a much more fundamental level as I pointed to in my first post.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          "This works where there are candidates of equivalent ability in other respects."

          Why do they need to be equivalent in other respects?

          That makes no real sense if you are wanting a diverse workforce and places diversity as a sub-optimal requirement. Competency not equivalency should be the benchmark – you can't measure equivalency in any real sense and different perspectives are never equivalent.

          In any recruitment process competencies are always weighted. There is no reason at all diversity shouldn't simply be given a higher weighting.

    • Ad 11.2

      Case in point: the Green Party MPs.

      You can mush all theirs CVs together with glue still not form more than one decent Minister.

    • Sacha 11.3

      The fact that diversity in appointments is even a topic of discussion suggests problems at a much more fundamental level that haven't been solved.

      Quite. Mediocre white men from connected families getting preferential treatment should have ended ages ago.

  12. Puckish Rogue 12

    Bit late for an April Fools Day post isn't it?

  13. Ad 13

    Sam Uffindell is an excellent asset for National and I can easily see him slotting into an Associate Finance or Revenue Minister role within his banking and anti-fraud background. Rabobank's loss is a shared gain for National.

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