When Judy Kirk became president of the National Party in 2002 she said she’d be a backroom one.
She succeeded in that and much more.
She took over when the party was at its lowest ebb with only 27 MPs, low and declining membership and finances which reflected that. She leaves it with more than twice that number of MPs, about three times the number of members and on a sound financial footing.
With then leader Bill English and now MP Steven Joyce, Judy instituted a comprehensive revision of the party’s rules which strengthened it and enabled it to deal with MMP; she improved relationships between the parliamentary and volunteer arms of the party; instituted the Candidates’ Club to prepare prospective MPs; she helped reinvigorate caucus with the selection of new candidates, including current leader John Key, increased membership, got the party’s finances sorted and she ensured everyone in the party knew it is the party vote which counts.
One of her real strengths was her recognition and appreciation of volunteers. She never missed an opportunity to acknowledge, thank and encourage members. She was particularly supportive of electorate chairs and instituted an annual gathering for them to help them in their role and enable them to learn from each other.
She always said, “ring me anytime” and she meant it.
Last night the party officially thanked Judy for her contribution as president with sincere and moving tributes. This morning the board will elect her replacement. Whoever it is has a very good role model to follow.
Judy’s final speech as president is here.
The NZ Herald profiles her here.