Fresh-faced candidate to replace English

Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014
Todd Barclay
Todd Barclay.

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It is deja vu for Clutha-Southland voters, with National selecting a fresh-faced 24-year-old to replace Finance Minister Bill English in this year's September 20 election.

English first entered Parliament at the age of 29 and has comfortably held the seat for the past 24 years.

In fact, the seat, even in its history as the Wallace electorate, has not been won by another party since before 1935.

But when English announced his retirement in November, the seat suddenly became a hotly contested position for those desperate to get their start in Parliament.

The announcement late on Sunday afternoon that young tobacco company lobbyist Todd Barclay would be a candidate was a mark of the party's political strategy.

"They [National Party] are maybe thinking long-term, which is good because I am here for the long haul," Barclay said.

The Southland boy was raised in Dipton, English's hometown, before completing his schooling at Gore High.

"Dipton is a very small rural village and the English family is a household name across the whole electorate. Our family know the Englishes, as did everybody in Dipton, but there was no family history between us," he said.

The young candidate forged his career in politics at 19 when he interned for English while also studying a bachelor of commerce in commercial law at Victoria University.

"I grew and developed with the electorate while I was in English's office," he said.

Since then he has worked as a ministerial secretary to Gerry Brownlee and Hekia Parata.

Barclay left public service eight months ago to work as corporate affairs manager for tobacco giant Philip Morris International, a move he doesn't think "defines him".

"It was just a job, and it taught me a lot about corporate politics . . . I do not condone smoking or even smoke myself though," he said.

"Everyone has been affected by someone with a long-term illness, so my greatest sympathies go out to them," he said.

Barclay said he has since resigned, effective as of last Sunday, from his position at Philip Morris.

When asked about the main issues facing the Clutha-Southland area, Barclay said he had held the position for only one day.

"The area deserves strong representation and someone who understands the issues," he said.

English said Barclay had worked for him in Wellington about three years ago and would be a "fantastic candidate".

"He comes from good working rural stock . . . what he lacks in years, he makes up in his willingness to learn and his ability to learn fast," he said.

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Barclay's parents had run the grocery shop for several years in Dipton and English had seen him as a child.

Barclay had attended preschool playgroup with English's son.


- The Southland Times


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