The National Party is reviewing the selection of Todd Barclay as its Clutha-Southland candidate following allegations of a rushed process, improper votes and “delegate stacking” with his family members and supporters.
National’s rules committee, tasked with providing legal advice and support to the party board, is understood to be investigating nearly half of the 18 electorate branches in the Southland seat and could yet call for Barclay’s selection to be revoked.
The sitting MP was re-selected as the party’s candidate for the 2017 election last December, despite a challenge from former Merrill Lynch banker Simon Flood amid discontent from some sections of the electorate.
Barclay has cited his reselection as evidence the allegations against him are wrong, saying: “I’ve gone through quite a robust local, transparent process too which was my re-selection which I won quite convincingly so my people and supporters down here clearly see it for what it is.”
English – speaking before he revealed Barclay had spoken to him about making the recordings – also mentioned the electorate’s decision to reselect him when asked whether he had confidence in the first-term MP.
“Yes I do – he’s been re-selected by the National Party.”
However, Newsroom understands a large group of National Party members from the electorate has made an extensive and detailed complaint to the rules committee.
The group is believed to have argued Barclay’s selection may be invalid, in part due to the stacking of voting delegates made possible by blatant breaches of the party’s own rules.
Only one voting delegate is selected per 10 National Party branch members and the process of appointing those delegates is stringent. It involves strict rules around branches’ annual general meetings (AGMs), quorums and special general meetings (SGMs).
Family members chosen
Milton is one of the branches under investigation, with questions about whether it held either an AGM to set a quorum, or an SGM to select voting delegates.
Despite this, six voting delegates were chosen. All were Barclay supporters – including four of his own family members.
While there are always exceptions, the voting delegates would normally come from within the branch district.
However, five of Milton’s six voting delegates came from the separate Gore and Winton branches. They included Barclay’s sister, his brother-in-law, his aunt and uncle, along with his current electorate staff member Bernadette Hunt.
Barclay’s sister, brother-in-law and Hunt all attempted first to become delegates in Gore without success.
Barclay’s mother also unsuccessfully tried to become a Gore delegate, although his father made it through the selection process.
Newsroom understands between 25 and 50 of the 109 voting delegates may not have been eligible to vote due to various breaches of the National Party rules process.
The complaint centres around whether “illegal votes” were cast, and if so, whether the selection was invalid.
Barclay: “Ridiculous allegation”
Concerns have also been raised about whether Barclay made a false declaration before his selection.
As part of the nomination process, he had to sign a form, witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or High Court solicitor under the Oaths and Declarations Act: “I know of no past incident in my life or current or past aspects of my personal life or character … or any aspect of my business affairs not previously referred to in this application, which – if disclosed subsequent to making this application – would or might cause embarrassment to me or the party.”
Barclay signed the form on November 8, 2016 – nearly four months after being contacted by police in regards to the investigation into unlawfully recording his electorate officer in her office in Gore.
Section 100 of the National Party’s constitution and rules state that electorate nominees must “comply strictly with the rules for selection concerning provision” of full and truthful information about themselves when properly sought.
National’s rules state that it can withdraw its endorsement of an electorate candidate “if it is in the interests of the party”, by majority vote at a board meeting.
In a response to Newsroom, Barclay said accusations of delegate stacking and an improper process were “a ridiculous allegation”.
“I think they were doing a review but I understand that’s normal, particularly our one which was quite unique.”
Barclay referred further questions about the investigation to National Party president Peter Goodfellow, saying: “Anything regarding the selection is a matter for the party, I have absolutely no involvement in it as one of the candidates.”
When contacted by Newsroom, Goodfellow confirmed the board did receive a complaint from some members about the “technical aspects” of the selection process.
“While the board has confidence in the way our selections are run, including this one, any member of the party is entitled to make a complaint and the board therefore initiated a process to investigate the matters raised.
“This involved asking our rules committee to look into the matters raised by the complainants which they have done.”
A report was on its way, and the board would be meeting to review it as soon as was “practical”.
Members would then report back to the complainants, Goodfellow said.
Contacted for comment about a potential Clutha-Southland investigation, National’s rules committee chairman Peter Kiely said: “I haven’t been involved in that, that is Kate Wilkinson who has done that.
“I’m not saying that at all [that an investigation is underway], I’m just saying that’s a question that Kate Wilkinson may or may not be able to help you.”
Wilkinson has been contacted for comment.
Watch: The full investigation story on Newsroom
Watch: Todd Barclay responds to Newsroom’s questions
Read: The timeline of events leading to Newsroom’s investigation
Read: Barclay payout raises questions over leader’s fund