Lloyd Burr: National's leadership conundrum

Lloyd Burr: National's leadership conundrum
Photo credit: Getty.

OPINION: What do you change when your political party is the most popular in the country, has the most MPs in Parliament, and hasn't really done anything wrong?

The typical answer would be 'nothing'. But for National, doing nothing isn't an option.

It lost the election. It's in Opposition. Its leader just quit. It must do something.

But what exactly that 'something' looks like is baffling National's 56 MPs, who are having a collective political existential crisis.

It's not just the leader they have to choose, it's the direction of the party, the strategy, the policy, the personnel, and its positioning with the public.

And it's uncharted territory for National because it's approaching the conundrum from a position of strength, not a position of weakness.

It had the same conundrum in 2002, but that was after being annihilated at the election, with just 21 percent of the vote. It hit rock bottom, and had to rebuild completely.

In 2017, it got more than twice that with 44.4 percent of the vote, and got 56 MPs into Parliament. Five more MPs and it would have been able to govern alone.

Yet it now has to rebuild again, despite a high level of public support. There's no rule book on how to do it.

And that's why so many National MPs are on the fence over the leadership.

There's a continuum MPs must choose their position on. One end is 'Little Change' while the other end is 'Wholesale Change'.

Do they choose a leader who will make a few tweaks to the party's policy, direction, strategy, and personnel hierarchy?

Or do they go for someone who will opt for a complete or even radical overhaul?

Choose the wrong option, and the party risks losing its popularity; Not enough change will make it look stale, but too much change will make it look unstable, lost, or desperate.

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