A communication glitch before last year’s National Party Mainland conference led to the media being excluded from most of proceedings.
There is a place for in-house sessions when members get to hear and say things which might not be aired in a public forum. But conferences are also a vehicle to showcase people and policy.
We did much better this year, and Dene Mackenzie, the ODT’s political editor, noticed.
What a difference a year makes for the National Party – a change for the better as far as involving its members and being decidedly more open than for many years. . .
He gives me credit which I appreciate, but it should go to many people including other office holders, the board, staff and MPs who are committed to on-going improvement.
. . . National had been in danger of losing the support of a wide cross-section of loyal supporters who had become tired of being talked at rather than talked to.
Feedback on Saturday was positive, but there is still a way to go.
This year, break-out groups got a chance to spend time discussing the speeches of the first three speakers with the speakers, before reporting back to the wider conference.
Interestingly, every MP, whether they were list or electorate, paid sincere tribute to the hard work of the volunteers who helped get them elected . . .
That was noticed and appreciated. There were many factors which led to National’s electoral success last year, one of the important ones was the number of volunteers who support the party and the efforts they go to for it.
. . . Showing members there is a chance to make a difference to the way the party operates will attract and keep activists, not all of whom want to become MPs but do want to be involved in the political process.
The weekend was a first step in the party organisation regaining the trust and support of the people who fund it.
Dene says the party has had a change of heart. It’s not so much that as a greater commitment to giving value to members.
Conferences aren’t the only place for them to have their say. Branch and electorate meetings and policy advisory groups give plenty of opportunity for contributions. The Southern region held a policy day with MPs last year and will have at least one this year.
But conferences get the most attendees and attention and it is important that members have plenty of opportunity to contribute.
National has the largest membership base of any party in New Zealand and it’s growing.
Ensuring members are valued and get value from their membership is essential if that is to continue.