Nats open channels for some fresh blood

By Paula Oliver

National Party leader John Key wants to take a more ethnically diverse range of MPs into the next election and is set to make the topic a priority when the party's list rankings are decided next year.

Mr Key said yesterday there were "no ifs or buts" about the need for National to get a more ethnically diverse range of faces into the party.

"We're short in certain areas," he said.

Rumours of potential new candidates for National are beginning to circulate and Mr Key said some high-quality people were seeking roles.

As some were in high profile and sensitive positions "for obvious reasons we need to keep discreet".

Mr Key said the party had objectives to achieve with its list but also saw opportunities for candidates in some "winnable" electorate seats such as Rotorua and Taupo.

Rotorua was won by Labour's Steve Chadwick in 2005, scraping in with 662 votes. Taupo was also closely fought, with Cabinet minister Mark Burton getting home by 1285 votes.

One name to draw speculation as a future National candidate is former All Black Michael Jones but Mr Key would not comment on that likelihood. "But he'd be a great candidate," he said.

National's candidates college a few weeks ago was attended by about 45 people.

Though the party is assessing potential fresh blood, some of its older or longer-serving MPs are showing no signs of exiting, partly because of the renewed momentum the party has built up under Mr Key.

Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson is intending to stand for his electorate seat again next year, after navigating a rough patch during which he admits he wondered what he was doing in Parliament.

"The problem was, in the first three to four months, I had trouble with the personal insults," he said.

"I don't care if you call me fat and ugly, it doesn't worry me too much but I wouldn't start bringing family members up."

Mr Clarkson began to feel quite down about the matter but got through it after having a conversation with Mr Key over the Christmas break.

"I felt I was sitting on my bum doing nothing," he said.

"If I can't achieve, I don't want to be there."

After the conversation, Mr Clarkson was handed work to do on National's affordable housing policy development, including leaky homes and state housing.

The MP said he had enjoyed getting this teeth into the work and was feeling a renewed vigour for the job.

He is now certain he will be standing again for Tauranga in 2008.

Deputy Speaker and list MP Clem Simich is a long-serving National stalwart who intends sticking around for another term.

As for his future, Mr Simich said he was enjoying what he was doing, especially his role as Deputy Speaker.

The party being on on a roll also helped.

"It hasn't been like this for about 16, 17 years," Mr Simich said.

"It's a great feeling, there's a lot of work to be done but I'm enjoying being part of it."

Should National lead the next Government, Mr Simich said he would like to be Speaker but would do whatever suited the party.

It is understood, however, the Speaker's role has previously been promised to National MP Richard Worth.

Tamaki MP Allan Peachey is also intending to stand again in 2008, after a battle with cancer.

He said he was "doing okay" in his recovery and had enjoyed getting back into his electorate work.

The long hours in Wellington were demanding and sometimes he needed to pause and pace himself.

"It is my intention to stand for Tamaki again," Mr Peachey said.

"As long as I'm as fit as I am now, I intend to seek the nomination again and I'm looking forward to it."

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 22 Oct 2014 13:46:47 Processing Time: 1442ms