Christopher Luxon promised to address National’s diversity issues ahead of the election, and he says the party’s done exactly that with its new and growing candidate list

National’s Christopher Luxon says he set “clear expectations” around wanting a more diverse candidate list at the 2023 election and he’s proud it’s being achieved.

“When I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it,” he told Newsroom during his end-of-year interview last week.

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At the time of this interview National had selected 11 new candidates – four females and seven males.

Of those candidates five are European, five are Māori and one is a Pacific Islander. They are spread across age brackets from one in her 20s to two in their 60s.

Just two of the 11 new candidates are Pākehā men.

Luxon says the party’s efforts to create a National Party that is truly national in how it represents all communities ahead of the election is “tremendous progress” on where things were at when he took over the leadership a year ago.

Up until Tama Potaka’s win in the Hamilton-West by-election earlier this month, there were more men with the name Chris than Māori MPs in the caucus.

“I was deadly serious (about diversity). I know you’ve given me grief about it all year, but I said what I’d do, and I did what I said I would do,” Luxon told Newsroom.

National was dealt a decent blow earlier this year when one of its new MPs, Sam Uffindell, found himself under the spotlight just three days after being sworn in as Tauranga’s new representative in Parliament.

His selection had been controversial as it was the first opportunity for Luxon to show he could diversify his caucus, yet in April the shortlist delivered four Pākehā men.

Uffindell won the Tauranga seat in September only to be immediately embroiled in accusations of historic bullying and physical assault during his time at boarding school, followed by an allegation of bullying and intimidation from his university days.

“I want us to stay really humble, there’s a long way to go.”
– Christopher Luxon

The MP acknowledged the boarding school incident had happened and had apologised to the victim not long before deciding to run for Parliament.

Luxon suspended him from caucus and commissioned an independent report by King’s Counsel Maria Dew into the university claims, which according to the leader proved Uffindell hadn’t done what the media reports suggested.

It’s unclear what was or wasn’t uncovered during the investigation as the report has never been released, nor have the terms of reference.

Much of the blame for the selection of Uffindell and the decision not to publicly disclose his behaviour at boarding school – despite him admitting it as part of his application – was pointed at the National Party board.

Luxon told Newsroom the party had dealt with things appropriately.

“I think we’ve managed any issues that have come incredibly well. We’ve been direct and upfront, and we’ve been very fair with individuals and the other parties that have been involved, and I think you’ve seen good people management as a result through the course of the year.

“I’m really proud of the progress the party has made,” he said.

As the party prepares for next year’s election and heads into the summer break with both the 1News Kantar Public poll and Newshub Reid Research’s showing National could govern with ACT on current numbers, Luxon is feeling optimistic but remaining focused.

“I want us to stay really humble, there’s a long way to go,” Luxon told Newsroom.

“The position we’re in today is very different and the progress we’ve made. I said we’d reset, embrace diversity, and leave the baggage behind – I think we’ve done that job incredibly well.”

Luxon, who describes himself as a “naturally humble and focused” person, has warned his MPs against complacency and hubris, saying he and the caucus need to guard against it.

“From my perspective that message has been crystal clear, and I make it with my caucus regularly.

“It’s the way we want to roll forward as a culture in the party.”

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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