Former National leader Todd Muller will face party members this weekend at a meeting of its Central North Island council this weekend.
He’ll come face-to-face with MPs who have recently lost their seats, including former New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and ex Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe, along with Tania Tapsell who failed to win back East Coat, the seat vacated by Anne Tolley.
The meeting will be led by chair Andrew von Dadelzen, who recently described Muller’s leadership bid as “pathetic” in a Facebook post that was briefly taken down.
It will be the first time Muller meets with von Dadelzen since, and the first time he’s seen members of the coucil since the election – although he has been to a caucus meeting with MPs.
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The meeting is being billed as something of a reckoning for Muller, with many MPs blaming the instability unleashed by his tilt at the leadership for their disastrous election defeat. The party lost two more MPs on Friday, with the release of the final vote.
Von Dadelzen said the meeting would put a focus on analysing the election loss. He said some of the home truths about the election needed to be told.
“That sort of stuff needs to come out so that’s okay,” he said, about his Facebook post.
“The caucus needs to move forward, and we need to have free and frank discussion both at the caucus level and at the party level.
“There’s a lot of frustration out there and volunteers have put in a huge amount of effort, and we’d better allow them to express that freely – then you can more forward,”
National Party regional councils meet regularly, usually to discuss administrative points, campaign strategy and policy – but von Dadelzen said this meeting would have an emphasis on debriefing after the last election.
“We’re going to allocate quite a bit of time to have a debrief,” he said.
“The more frank we are the better.”
“We’ve got to learn what went right and what went wrong and you’ve got to do that at every level of the party,” he said.
In the last Parliament, National’s successful Central North Island (CNI) group once controlled every electorate from Hamilton to the East Coast. It’s now lost more than a third of the 11 electorates it controlled.
Young, one of the MPs who lost his seat, said he would be attending and that the party needed to “kick the tyres and work out what went wrong”.
“The CNI used to be all blue and now we’ve lost quite a few votes,” he said.
Todd Muller did not respond to requests for comment.
There has been some ill-feeling towards Muller in caucus. After a mental health incident, Muller resigned the leadership of the party and vanished from public view.
Some MPs believe Muller needs to take some personal responsibility for the instability unleashed by his leadership challenge and apologise to the caucus for playing a large role in the party’s defeat.
But other MPs are more circumspect fear burdening Muller with further stress.
“I don’t bear Todd any ill feeling,” one said.
But they said the CNI meeting would be an important time to litigate some of the party’s issues.
”It’ll be a case of going through the reasons for such a shattering result,” said an MP.
”There’s no question that there were aspects fo the last three years that went so incredibly badly for national that naturally that had a very detrimental impact on how we were seen by the public at large
“Until we get discipline unity and a focus back on the issues that matter for New Zealanders rather than the internal workings of the national party.”