Democratic process will decide candidate

23:39, Feb 23 2014

At the next election, as most of you know, there will be a new MP for Southland. The question that I have been asked most since announcing I was standing down as MP is "who will be the next National candidate for Clutha- Southland?"

And while the rumours might be running rife - quite frankly, I have no idea who it will be.

That's because the National Party runs a local democratic process where party members decide on their candidate.

Last year I was asked a pretty good question by some Southland primary school pupils who were visiting Parliament.

They wanted to know what qualifications you needed to be a politician - and I replied "none".

They looked a bit surprised, I think because they assumed anyone wearing a suit to work must have to be qualified.


But I told them that the best thing about politics is that anyone can do it - if they have a lot of energy and don't mind working with all sorts of people.

So anyone can put their hand up. No-one should presume there is a right or a wrong sort of candidate, or that anyone has the inside running.

The process is thorough and it's as much about character and ability to relate to people with integrity as it is about anything else. It's not a test of party policy expertise, where you come from, or even who you know.

Around a hundred delegates, representing all areas of the electorate, from Queenstown to Tuatapere, from Waihola to Lawrence, will make the final selection. Back in the day, I just made it myself among five other candidates.

I met with 200 voters, and it took four ballots before I won 50 per cent of the votes. But I have to say it was worth the effort. I believe it's the best job you can get, with an endless variety of work to do and people to meet. No two days are the same and after a while you can influence the way the country works.

It's a privilege and an honour and it shows that New Zealand really is the land where anyone can have a go at running the country.

Bill English is MP for Clutha-Southland.

The Southland Times