In the seminal 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, a powerful fashion editor, Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, confronts her junior assistant Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway for scoffing at the frivolous and apparently meaningless world of high fashion during a meeting.
Priestly, a thinly-veiled portrait of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, notes Sachs is wearing a cerulean blue jumper - something Sachs thoughtlessly purchased from a discount bin thinking she was deliberately subverting the controlling world of high fashion.
In fact, as Priestly tells Sachs, her cerulean jumper is the last word in a craze for the colour which began in a designer runway show, filtered through high-fashion magazines and designers, and eventually found its way to the bargain bin in which Sachs found her jumper.
The point is that Sachs' cerulean jumper isn't a rejection of high fashion, it was actually picked, in Priestly's words, by the very people she thinks she can ignore.
Political party conferences are much like this. Even those peripherally interested in politics tend not to focus on these events, reserved for fee-paying diehards. You might think it unusual to pay hundreds of dollars to sit in a room yarning about politics for two days, but these people don't, and they spent the weekend locked in Christchurch's great concrete scrunchie of a convention centre, Te Pae, shaping the future of the National Party, the only party in New Zealand that's in government more often than it's not.
How is the National Party feeling? Well, from a funding perspective, pretty flush. Former deputy leader Paula Bennett's multi-million dollar fundraising spree is replenishing the party's coffers, not that members are any the wiser - that information is published by the electoral commission, it is not put to members in published material at the conference.
The board's report to members said the party was in good shape, and tracking to budget. Financials presented to members said that expenses on staff increased to 50 per cent of income in 2021, up from 45 per cent the year before.
Party Secretary William Durning warned membership "saw a decline from 2020 and was well short of an ambitious target".
Nevertheless, he wrote in a report "we do expect to see membership grow in 2022". Membership of political parties tends to tick up in election year.
The National Party's youth wing, the Young Nats, made its presence felt at the party's last conference, distributing rainbow wristbands in protest at the caucus's decision to vote against the ban on conversion therapy, in apparent violation of the party's position supporting a ban (the caucus opposed on a technicality).
In her report to the party, its president Stephanie-Anne Ross said the Young Nats were "very pleased" to see caucus change turn conversion therapy into a conscience issue and for a "significant portion" of the caucus to back a ban at second and third readings.
The National Party is often seen as a party of property ownership and investment, so it was interesting to see the Young Nats gently prod the older parts of the party on the vexed issue of urban intensification. Many believe intensification is the key to getting young people onto the property ladder, but it is intensely unpopular with some National-leaning voters who don't like the idea of building more homes in their suburbs.
Ross said the Young Nats had submitted in support of National and Labour's joint effort to allow more urban growth in our largest cities, and urged a rethink of the New Zealand "psyche" as it relates to property, which she said was "unsustainable".
"As part of the generation who are paying record high rents and struggling to pull together a deposit for our first home, we are acutely aware of the impact of the housing crisis.
"The bill demands a change in the currently unsustainable Kiwi 'psyche' that will block generations of young Kiwis out of home ownership, and we were proud to support it," she wrote.
One part of the party that would like more attention is National's environmental wing, the Bluegreens. National likes to see itself as a broad church, and nowhere is that more true than in the area of the environment, where the party membership encompasses the fringes of climate denial to members who would like National to go toe-to-toe with the Greens on environmental issues.
The party higher-ups are very keen to make sure National doesn't backslide into climate denialism. A couple of hours into proceedings, a panel of senior MPs was asked about what National could do on climate, because Labour wasn't doing a very good job.
Leader Christopher Luxon took the microphone and deftly crafted the question (it was not clear whether the questioner opposed all climate action, or just what Labour was doing) into an answer he found palatable.
Luxon reminded members National supported the Zero Carbon Act and the climate change architecture that it created, and that National also supported the emissions budgets that were put forward by the Climate Change Commission and backed by Labour - he just opposed Labour's road map for achieving those budgets. The era of "fart tax" is gone (although Nicola Willis did lay into the "ute tax").
In an environment breakout, the party's environmental wing, the Bluegreens were chastised by its members for not doing enough to market National as a green party. One member reckoned with better PR, National could peel votes off from the actual Green Party.
"We're not getting our message out … they don't see us as green," she said.
Bluegreens co-chair Chris Severne didn't disagree about marketing and PR issues, and he even told members the party bureaucracy itself had an issue formulating green policies and getting them to their arm of the party.
He said four of the party's five regional organisations had not "touched base" with the Bluegreens about policy suggestions that could be run up the flag to the central party hierarchy.
He said the Bluegreens had "four or five [policies] from the Northern Region. We have four other regions we haven't heard ticketeeboo from," he told members.
Severne told the Herald that a strong economy allowed for good environmental policies, and said National had every right to celebrate its environmental record as much as Labour.
"It's one of the best-kept secrets of the National Party," he said.
However, he was frustrated by the lack of attention from other grassroots parts of the party.
"That annoys me. I chair the policy advisory group for the environment for the party. I've had excellent response from the Northern region, but zippo from anybody else.
"We had a policy meeting this morning and I made a point quite clear that I'm looking for input from other regions from other policy chairs from those regions," he told the Herald.
A similarly confounding debate was taking place next door, where foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee was discussing the challenge of China with members. China is New Zealand's number one trading partner (a fact of which National's agricultural base hardly needs reminding), but was becoming increasingly difficult from a security perspective.
There was a strong recognition of the need for change in the party. At a closed-door discussion on demography members were warned the party needed to change to reflect New Zealand's diverse population. In an open session, President Peter Goodfellow told members that voters would only listen to a party that reminded them of themselves, and listed diversification as one of his achievements as president.
In his final speech as president, he cast back to the maiden speech of longtime MP Melissa Lee, which noted her journey to become the first Korean-born MP elected in New Zealand.
Party remits, which aren't necessarily meaningful in National as there's no guarantee a remit will actually become policy, will be debated on Sunday.
The remits are fairly diverse and run the gamut from getting the party to commit to reviewing any decisions made on He Puapua, to improving access to diagnostic services for gynaecological cancers, to increasing defence spending to the level of Australia, to trying to improve access to dental care for all New Zealanders.
Whether they filter their way, cerulean-style, into National's manifesto and into party or even government policy will of course depend on how the party feels next year, and, more importantly, how New Zealand voters feel about the party.
The party also unveiled new colours, ditching the dark blue of the Judith Collins years and opting for a light magenta that bleeds into deep blue. It's a little closer to the lighter, brighter colour scheme of the Key years when the party opted for a shade of blue closer to, well, cerulean.
For more from Thomas Coughlan, listen to On the Tiles, the Herald's politics podcast