Christopher Luxon is set to announce his reshuffle in coming weeks, while Jacinda Ardern is keeping her powder dry until the new year as both parties get campaign-ready

National’s leader doesn’t know of any other resignations to come from his caucus but says there’s still time if any of his MPs choose to step down ahead of next year’s election.

To date David Bennett, Jacqui Dean and Ian McKelvie are the only National MPs to announce they won’t be contesting the next election.

The Prime Minister has hinted she won’t be calling an early election – it’s expected to be roughly a year out from now, likely October or November.

The 2017 election was held in late September and while the 2020 polling day was set down for September 19, it was delayed until October 19 due to a Covid outbreak.

There have been question marks over whether two of Luxon’s MPs, who have faced controversy this year, will put their hand back up to run again.

Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell spent more than five weeks away from Parliament suspended from caucus after an investigation was launched into bullying behaviour.

On receiving a report from KC Maria Dew, Luxon announced in September that Uffindell would be returning to Parliament, saying the inquiry hadn’t substantiated the claims made against his MP in the media.

The report has never been made public.

Luxon told Newsroom on Wednesday he fully expected Uffindell to contest the candidacy again.

Likewise, Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, who was demoted from her agriculture, biosecurity, and food safety portfolios after failing to declare a conflict of interest, is also expected to contest the seat again.

Candidate selections won’t wrap up until April for National and some electorates are expected to open nominations in December but not be confirmed until the new year.

Luxon will meet with each of his MPs and assign new portfolios before Christmas, telling Newsroom he wanted the caucus to have the summer to study up on any new roles.

Candidate selection is an area Luxon has had to take an interest in after his deputy, Nicola Willis, made it clear she wanted women to be on the shortlist for the Tauranga by-election, and in response the electorate put up four white males.

“The local branches are in complete control of the process in terms of who they ultimately get to select.”
– Christopher Luxon, National

Luxon’s put his leadership on the line saying he expects diverse candidates to come through ahead of next year’s election, and its first test was when Hamilton-West announced its shortlist ahead of the December 10 by-election.

Three diverse candidates were chosen by the delegates earlier this month, and Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki chief executive Tama Potaka was ultimately selected to represent the party.

Asked whether some other electorate committees still to shortlist and choose their own candidates might see Luxon as interfering and respond negatively, Luxon responded saying he made no apologies for his comments.

“I’ve been very honest, even before I became leader, that we didn’t have the diversity that we need to have in New Zealand.

“When you go back through 80 years of history of this party, it’s at its best when it’s a national National Party … that’s when we’ve been really strong.”

Luxon says he’s made his expectations clear and laid them out to the party to “transmit that pretty clearly through the system”.

“They’re not getting told who to pick, I’ve set expectations and been clear about profiles I want to see coming into our slate for 2023 – that’s the extent of the conversation,” he said.

“The local branches are in complete control of the process in terms of who they ultimately get to select.”

Heading into election year, Luxon remains determined to keep politics clean.

“I will argue our end hard, but I can disagree without being disagreeable in a personal sense.”

Luxon told Newsroom keeping a certain level of civility in politics is what New Zealanders want, and anything else is just doing a disservice.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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