Hamish Walker selected for Clutha-Southland

The National Party in Clutha-Southland has gone for someone quite a bit older to replace Todd Barclay as their MP – 32 year old Hamish Walker has been selected to be their next MP. Walker appeared to be the front runner.

It has to be expected he will easily win what is a very safe National seat, so the hardest part has been done. Many MPs are selected more by parties than by electorates.

Walker stood for National in Dunedin South last election. He lost to Labour’s Clare Curran by 3,858 votes, not bad for what has historically been a Labour stronghold.

Better for his party, National got 15,003 party votes to Labour’s 12,518. National had also come out in front in the 2011 election but by less, so Walker and his campaign team must have been doing something well.

Walker was 65th on National’s list in 2014, a few places outside the cut. It doesn’t matter where he ends up on their list this year, he should romp in in Clutha Southland, Barclay won with 21,561 votes there in 2014, with the Labour candidate second on 6,675.

I think he moved to Dunedin from up north prior to the last election.



Clifton: post-mortem on the Barclay fiasco

A “post-mortem on Todd Barclay fiasco” (and the McCarten fiasco) has just popped up on Noted after being in the Listener a couple of weeks ago, with any interesting analysis of the complexities that most of the media failed to address.

On Barclay:

Given his youth, affluence, career and party affiliation, Barclay was always going to struggle to get the benefit of the doubt in any political stoush. But the more that emerges about this affair, the more simplistic the popular media take on it seems;: that it’s all about Barclay abusing local staff and members. To refine something this column said last week, Barclay was probably more sinned against than sinning.

After months of intense local parsing of gossip, factoid and eyewitness account, National Party members voted by a considerable margin to reselect Barclay as their candidate. Either they didn’t believe the half of what his detractors said or they reckoned it didn’t matter. Maybe, too, they made judgments about people’s motives. When a new MP moves in, the old guard in an electorate can suffer an attack of that age-old complaint called relevance-deprivation syndrome.

The kernel of the complaints was that Barclay lived it up a little too much, threw his weight around and paid more attention to townie business than rural folk. One could fairly ask, what twentysomething living in Queenstown wouldn’t party, and if not, what the heck was wrong with them? Tourism and property development are the district’s rocket fuel, so the local MP is obliged to prioritise them. And as MP, he’s the electorate boss. Staff have to do things his way, even if they reckon he’s wrong. These, at least, were the conclusions of the majority of Nats who reselected him.

That should have been an end to it. His foes relitigated their dissatisfaction with a slew of formal complaints to the party board, but these were rejected after an investigation led by lawyer and former Cabinet minister Kate Wilkinson.

How would anyone, let alone a novice MP, feel if they believed people who were supposed to support them – including some who were being paid to do so – were accusing them of criminality and licentiousness?

Let’s hastily say that trying to catch one’s accusers out with illicit bugging would not be a correct or proportionate response. But it’s now clear that, to whatever extent bullying took place, it went both ways.

Despite those rumours having swirled for a couple of years, Barclay has never been investigated for anything other than the taping allegation, so this tattling has to be seen as spite. If anyone genuinely thought the MP was involved in such illegality, the correct thing to do would have been to tell the police. Whether or not Barclay sought to psych out his foes by bugging or a bluff of bugging, it’s now pretty clear some of them had first sought to psych him out by slanderous rumour-mongering. They might count themselves lucky that defamation is a civil rather than criminal matter, or police might be investigating them as well.

There was obviously a comprehensive campaign run against Barclay over several days using an obliging Newsroom (who as far as I have seen may scant attempt to balance their coverage with any investigating of the other side of the story).

On Bill English:

English’s peculiar hedging over aspects of Barclay’s electorate’s protracted squabbles have now damaged his reputation as a rock-solid leader. His seemingly needless hemming and hawing may be down to his uneasy conscience at the knowledge that he could have done more to stop the young MP’s plight becoming unsalvageable.

A further fact that Barclay’s foes must confront is the amount of political firepower arrayed in his defence, particularly within the National caucus. That support appears to remain solid, despite – and possibly because of – the suggestion that not all MPs are happy with English’s handling of matters. Ambitious, experienced MPs with big careers ahead of them have openly supported Barclay throughout his tribulations.

That’s not to say that ministers including Jonathan Coleman, Maggie Barry and Judith Collins and rising stars like Chris Bishop and Todd Muller have not told Barclay he’s been a blithering idiot. But they wouldn’t have telegraphed their support – several attending the selection meeting to back him – if they believed he’d been the primary menace in this mess. Nor would they risk their reputations if they thought he was a useless MP or a liability.

In any caucus, loyalty comes second to self-preservation. Few MPs in big trouble get that level of overt endorsement from colleagues. National’s Aaron Gilmore and Richard Worth didn’t get a sniff of it on their way out the door. Collins herself, when she was in shtook last election, would have welcomed a fraction of the ballast Barclay has had. English can’t be in any doubt that many of his MPs now feel he let Barclay down rather more badly than Barclay let down the party.

A further key difference – indeed, a Key difference – is that the MP-overboard outcome has not made the Prime Minister look strong. When John Key disciplined or dispatched errant MPs, he always emerged looking like someone who would not stand for any nonsense. English, by contrast, made himself look part of the problem rather than the guy who put a stop to it.

It was a big reality check for English, showing that he can’t just stroll through the campaign to the election. He has ground to make up after this slow motion slip up.

In conclusion:

For the Government, the Barclay fiasco is also proving damaging, but more in the way of storing up internal trouble for later. It may make voters re-examine their assumptions about English’s steadiness at the helm, but it’s unlikely to be a game-changer. The major damage is the doubt and resentment he’s seeded within the caucus and party. When one day National’s polling falters, he’ll pay for the Barclay affair.

How this pans out will probably be largely determined by the election result. If National hang on to power English should be safe for a while at least. But if they lose the political knives are likely to be aiming at English’s back fairly quickly.

IPCA clear Police on Barclay investigation

At least one complaint was made to the Independent Police Complaints Authority about the police investigation into Todd Barclay in Clutha-Southland. The IPCA has cleared the police.

RNZ: IPCA won’t pursue Barclay investigation complaint

The police watchdog has decided not to pursue a complaint about the handling of last year’s investigation into embattled Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay.

No charges were laid after several months of inquiries into a recording Mr Barclay was alleged to have made of a staffer in the Gore electorate office.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) received a complaint in June, but said it was satisfied there was no misconduct or neglect by police investigating the case.

It has notified the complainant and the Police Commissioner, and has closed its file.

At the time Mr Barclay declined to co-operate with the police investigation, and it has since been reopened.

The investigation was reopened after Barclay and Bill English made public statements about what happened.

Some people will never have been happy with an outcome like this. Winston Peters has already had a grizzle about it.

Stuff: IPCA clear police of any wrong doing in the handling of the Todd Barclay secret recording investigation

“In my view, the police haven’t satisfactorily answered why they didn’t pursue the case. They had complaints of a recording, they had a complainant and to the best of my knowledge we have not been told who they talked to or didn’t talk to,” Peters said.

“But to say they’re satisfied there was no misconduct is an extraordinary statement to make.”

It’s not extraordinary if they investigated thoroughly and that was the conclusion they came to.

Strange things happening in Clutha-Southland

There are calls for MP Todd Barclay to show up in his Clutha-Southland electorate and to front up in Parliament. Fair call, he is being paid to be an MP so he should do the job of an MP.

But as he keeps avoiding public contact investigations reveal some strange things going on in his electorate.

Stuff:  What’s behind the strange goings on in Southland?

Shooting the messenger has become a means to an end in itself – when trust in the media is at an all-time low, anything goes.

And anything goes is certainly how you would describe the extraordinary goings on in Southland this week after a local reporter, Rachael Kelly, tried to find out what local MP Todd Barclay had been up to since disappearing from public life last month.

Kelly and a local cameraman have been accused of intimidating and threatening behaviour, even of being physically aggressive.

And the allegations were made at the highest levels, from the Prime Minister’s office and Parliamentary Service.

Problem is, it’s not true.  A video shows what actually happened.

Kelly, accompanied by a cameraman, knocked on a door to Barclay’s Gore electorate office where a receptionist came to speak to them. Kelly is well known to the staff at the Gore office – Gore is her beat.

The pair were on the trail of a story that matters in their local community.

Kelly and her cameraman were in Barclay’s office barely more than a minute. After being told Barclay was not at work, and checking he hadn’t been there that week, the reporter said thank you and she and the cameraman left.

Watch it for yourself, at the top of this story, if you like.

Yet in conversations with South Island editor-in-chief, Joanna Norris, it was alleged Kelly and her cameraman “barged” into Barclay’s office and harassed and intimidated staff – even pursuing them to the back of the office, leaving the staff feeling threatened and under seige.

There was also a complaint about a [different] journalist shouting and abusing Barclay’s PR person over the phone.

Apparently he has one, even though it’s highly unusual for a backbencher to have their own media minder.

The allegations were made in two phone conversations between Norris and a senior member of the PM’s staff, as well as phone conversations with the head of Parliamentary Service, David Stevenson.

Stevenson also dropped the bombshell that police were now involved.

Both acknowledged after seeing the video it was not as they thought. They also defended their intervention as being out of concern for the welfare of staff, who have had to front for Barclay in his absence. But if it had not been for Stuff’s ability to produce video evidence, the allegations would probably have stuck.

It’s an increasingly common way for politicians to deflect questions. Attacking the behaviour and credibility of the journalist and their media organisation never fails to find a sympathetic ear, but especially so now.

Winston Peters has attacked the media/messenger for a long time. Donald Trump has raised the art to new heights in the US. It is an abuse of democratic power.

It’s not within the power of the prime minister or anyone else to force Barclay out of Parliament.

But it is within the prime minister’s power to compel Barclay to show up for work.

There is clearly no appetite in National, however, for Barclay to show his face in Wellington again.

National would rather avoid the media circus, even if that means dealing with the low level irritation of questions from journalists about his excuse for not being there.

This makes National look very dodgy.

RNZ:  Call for Barclay to return to Parliament

Mr Barclay has not been seen in Parliament and has scrapped public appearances since he announced last month that he will stand down at the election after one term as MP for Clutha Southland.

Mr Barclay – the deputy chair of the Education and Science and Primary Production select committees – has not returned RNZ’s calls or messages this week.

There are four sitting weeks before the House rises for the election, and Mr Barclay is still collecting his $165,000 a year MPs salary.

National Party senior whip Jami-Lee Ross, who visited Mr Barclay this week, said no decision has been made yet about whether he’ll return.

That shouldn’t be the decision.

the decision should be whether Barclay does his full job as an MP that he is being paid to do, or he should resign.

“Todd Barclay has said he is keen to be the MP for Clutha-Southland until the election and he’s doing that work.

“Any leave requirements he’ll be discussing with me as the party whip between now and the next sitting week of Parliament.”

If this drags on through the election campaign and nibbles away at National’s credibility they have themselves to blame for allowing this mess to continue into election year, and for dealing with it so poorly when it became a public issue.

Police investigating National Party board member

The Todd Barclay plot has just got thicker. National Party board member Glenda Hughes was already linked to the saga in the Clutha-Southland electorate, but she has now been included in the police investigation.

Newshub:  Police to investigate board member over Todd Barclay saga

Police are now investigating National Party board member Glenda Hughes over her role in the Todd Barclay saga, Newshub has learned.

It was widely reported at the time that Ms Dickson claimed to have been contacted by Ms Hughes, who allegedly told her that a police complaint would only cause problems for the National Government.

Ms Hughes also allegedly said if Ms Dickson withdrew the complaint, police would not have a case.

The latest information emerged in an Official Information Act (OIA) request from the Green Party to police.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, who received the OIA request, calls it a significant development.

Yes, it is a significant revelation (it sounds like it was already a development).

No wonder Bill English tried to appear to remain as distant as possible.

PM leader’s fund paid Barclay legal bill

As well as being used to top up the employment dispute settlement between Parliamentary Services and Clutha-Southland Gore office employee Glenys Dickson, it was also used to pay for legal advice for Todd Barclay.

1 News:  Todd Barclay case lawyers paid taxpayer cash

Taxpayer money from the former prime minister’s leader’s fund was used to pay for legal advice as well as top up the settlement in the Todd Barclay case, it’s been revealed.

The settlement was paid to former electorate office staffer Glenys Dickson to settle an employment dispute with Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay.

Most of it was paid by her employer, the Parliamentary Service, but had to be topped up from former prime minister John Key’s leader’s fund.

The amount isn’t known but New Zealand First managed to find out, through the Official Information Act, that $2609 was used to pay lawyers.

The taxpayers (us) have not forked out anything extra. The Prime Minister is given a certain amount for the fund and use it as allowed and decided, so if the money wasn’t used for Barclay’s legal bill it would have been used for something else by the PM’s office.

I presume this use of the fund was allowed by the rules, otherwise I’d expect that NZ First would be making a lot more noise about it.

Regardless, for the few that are likely to hear about this it doesn’t look that flash for National.

IPCA complaint laid over Barclay investigation

Someone has laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority over the handling of the inquiry into Todd Barclay last year.

The Police had reopened their inquiry last week.

Stuff:  Complaint over police handling of Todd Barclay case received by Independent Police Conduct Authority

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has received a complaint about police handling of the original investigation into the allegations of embattled National MP Todd Barclay’s involvement in a secret taping scandal.

Last week police re-opened the case and authority case resolution manager Sarah Goodall said the complaint about the original investigation was received on June 21, sparked by renewed media interest in the case.

It came from someone not personally involved in the case and was thus classified as a “principled complaint,” Goodall said.

“We are currently assessing information in accordance with our normal processes and determining what, if any, action to take,” Goodall said.

I really don’t know what the point of this complaint is. Trying to make a point or pressure the Police into doing more when inquiring into matters involving politicians?

This complaint shouldn’t affect the current inquiry, unless the aim is to apply more pressure on the Police.

Barclay has already lost his political career.  There has already been a confidential employment settlement that seems to have involved a substantial sum of money.

The recording allegation hardly seems to be a major crime – many didn’t realise it was a crime. Video recordings are legal, audio are illegal in some circumstances.

National’s Clutha -Southland candidate selection

National has announced it’s selection process for a candidate to replace Todd Barclay in the Clutha-Southland electorate. This is a very safe seat so is likely to be sought after by people wanting a relatively secure political career.

NZ Herald: National re-opens selections for Clutha-Southland seat

National has re-opened selections for the Clutha-Southland seat and already there are three names in the mix -including the man who unsuccessfully challenged Todd Barclay for it a few months ago.

The National Party’s Southern Region Chair Rachel Bird said nominations will close on July 18 and the candidate will be selected in August – leaving the new candidate between 4-7 weeks to campaign.

There are already three names in the mix.

Hamish Walker, 32, has confirmed he will seek the selection after standing for National in Dunedin South in 2014.

Walker has family in the electorate. Before moving back to Dunedin in 2014, he had a property management company in Auckland.

I’ve heard he may have an association with people on one side of the rift, if so he will have to manage that.

Barclay was from the electorate but had obvious difficulties dealing with established identities in the electorate (long standing staff) and with both Queenstown and Gore constituencies.

Simon Flood, an ex-Merrill Lynch investment banker, is believed to be considering it again after challenging Barclay for the seat last year.

He seems another odd option in a mostly rural electorate. Empathy and connections with high flying Queenstown are important, but so is a connection with the farming community.

Gore District Councillor Nicky Davis has also confirmed she is considering it.

She has tried before – she was a nominee when Barclay won the candidacy in 2014.

The person at the centre of the Barclay staff dispute, Glenys Dickson, is also a Gore District Councillor. Davis will need to be seen as either neutral or able to work with both sides of the bitter dispute if she wants to get support for the candidacy. She looks very much a Gore person so I don’t know how she would be seen around the largest general electorate in the country.

Whoever gets selected by National will havea lot of repair work to do in the electorate and for the party as a whole.

Balance in the Newsroom?

Newsroom have been praised for their investigative journalism after a series of revelations and articles on the Todd Barclay issue.

Questions have also been raised over their possible collusion with a dirty politics campaign, seemingly not just designed on damaging Todd Barclay.

After he has lost his political career over it the attention turned to Bill English, who was placed a very difficult position by drip fed Newsroom revelations. English was strongly criticised for not being open about things, but there was a confidential employment agreement involved, and also a secret recording that it would have been illegal to reveal existed let alone the contents.

There was the potential to bring down English, bring down the Government, and swing the election (that could still be a consequence).

It is very important that media holds power to account, and holds elected people and Governments to account. But media have power of their own, and that also needs to be held to account.

Newsroom are an Auckland based media organisation. They must have put considerable resources into a story about as far from Auckland as you can get, in Clutha-Southland.

There is a big contrast between their handling of the southern story and the other big political story of the past couple of weeks where it was important to hold another bunch of politicians to account – the Labour Party Fellowship/intern story. This is very much an Auckland story.

Newsroom is new and relatively small, so can’t be expected to cover every story in depth, but some balance should be expected.

Integrity and truthfulness of leading politicians were involved in both the Barclay and intern stories.

How did their coverage of the two stories compare?

On the National/Barclay Story:

  • Politicians, police, and the payout
  • Todd Barclay’s file of denial 19 June
  • Barclay payout raises questions over leader’s fund 19 June
  • Setbacks derail National’s election plan 23 June
  • Todd Barclay responds: ‘I did nothing wrong’
  • Barclay sorry for ‘misleading’ comments
  • Police to review Todd Barclay case
  • Privacy Commissioner may probe Barclay claims
  • Allegations Barclay invented complaints
  • Fall from grace for Baby of the House
  • How Barclay’s career went up in smoke
  • PM accused of cover-up
  • Hughes stonewalls Dickson questions
  • Barclay affair: What the board knew
  • English: Barclay offered to play rec
  • Officials knew details of Barclay tapes

On the Labour/intern story

  • Labour under fire over volunteer ‘hypocrisy’

No investigations on their own turf, no investigation about funding of the scheme, no questions about Andrew Little’s  integrity and truthfulness. Little slammed English’s morals while claiming the high ground over the interns, but media has barely touched on his lack of openness and on his varying and vague explanations.

Perhaps Newsroom are doing an in depth investigation and will publish soon.

Perhaps the Auckland Labour Party and the New Zealand Labour Party will still be held to account.

Rebooting Clutha-Southland campaign

Clutha-Southland is one of National’s safest electorates so it would be unthinkable that they can lose it, but they have to quickly come up with a credible candidate to replace Todd Barclay.

They have just suffered a very bitter internal dispute with an outcome that will have greatly displeased some of the party members, so the candidate selection could be challenging.

Simon Flood, the candidate who lost to Barclay last year, could try again but that would probably be contentious.

Ideally they need to come up with someone who both factions can live with – because they may have to live them for many years.

Winning the candidacy for Clutha-Southland is an opportunity for a job in Parliament potentially for decades, as long as you don’t cock up like Barclay did.

Eileen Goodwin broke the story of staff strife in Clutha-Southland last year. She writes in the ODT: Fears of damage to PM

The Otago Daily Times revealed last March that Mrs Dickson’s resignation involved claims of a secret recording.

A new selection process will begin ”very shortly” in the Clutha-Southland electorate after MP Todd Barclay’s announcement yesterday he is quitting Parliament, the National Party says.

Yesterday, National Party general manager Greg Hamilton said the party board would consider the matter soon so the new selection could start.

Mr Barclay was re-selected last December after a bitter contest.

A group of party members who believed he needed to go backed a challenge from former funds manager Simon Flood.

Mr Hamilton confirmed the party board would consider a complaint from a group of members about the selection contest. It is understood to involve claims of delegate stacking to skew the outcome.

So National will be investigating a complaint about the last selection process at the same as a new selection process.

Party member Maeva Smith, a friend of Mrs Dickson, said the party needed to take some responsibility for its handling of the problem. ”We didn’t want any damage to [Mr English] – that’s something that we didn’t want. We’ve got a great deal of respect for him.”

Significant damage has been done.

Mrs Smith said she would be working on the campaign to elect Mr English as prime minister in September. She hoped the electorate, which has up to 1500 party members, would rebuild.

”In some ways it’s cleared the air”.

For those who wanted Barclay dumped it may have, but it’s hard to imagine everyone comes out of this happy to move on.

An Otago Daily Times reporter who visited Gore yesterday to speak to people in the street said the feeling was that Mr Barclay’s decision to stand down was correct.

One woman said there was a general feeling around Gore that Mr Barclay was too young for the role.

RNZ has reported similar sentiments from elsewhere in the electorate.

Regardless, the situation now is that Barclay is not standing and National have to find someone else for a plum electorate which could be virtually for life.

Once the selection has been made one plus for National is that as the saying goes, a swede could win the electorate as long as it was blue.