There have been quite a few stories from the election campaign of candidates not showing up to election meetings, but it seems to have been a particular problem in Tauranga. I will hand over to Labour candidate Deborah Mahuta-Coyle to tell the story from up there.
We had heard on the grapevine that Simon Bridges wasn’t planning to front any candidates meetings during the election campaign. We shifted meeting dates, community groups offered to work within his availability- but after 6 cancelled candidates meetings in a row, people were angry their MP wasn’t fronting. They wrote into papers, some calling him arrogant, and many asked him to front up.
So me, Ian McLean from the Greens, Brendon Horan from NZFirst and Jayson Gardiner from Mana decided if Simon didn’t have time to come to us- we would go to him.
At 2pm today we as Tauranga Candidates arrived at one of Simons scheduled street corner meetings.
The look on Simons face when he saw us coming. He promptly turned his speaker phone on, and just yelled over us. Refused to even consider a short candidates meeting and only took questions from his supporters!
We clearly shook him up a bit as he yelled that Nationals tax system was fairer because drug dealers paid tax and when he claimed he had door knocked in a poorer area of Tauranga- a woman had him up about it and said in the last 3 years she hadn’t seen him once!
Our street corner meeting/ impromptu candidates meeting started with 5 national party supporters and ended up hosting over 30 people!
Simon scurried off as soon as he could- but I bet you he was worried at every street corner meeting after that one that we would turn up again.
Good on the other candidates for getting together on this one. Candidate meetings are time consuming, and we have a lot of them here in Wellington Central, but they are part of the democratic process. Even John Key managed to get to a couple of them, so surely Simon could have too?