I'm Todd Barclay. I'm from Dipton. Can I have a job?

New National Clutha-Southland candidate Todd Barclay with current MP and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English at the National Party Mainland Conference at the weekend. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
New National Clutha-Southland candidate Todd Barclay with current MP and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English at the National Party Mainland Conference at the weekend. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
''He's taller, he's cooler, he'll work harder ... and he was in a play group with my second-eldest son.''

That was Clutha-Southland MP Bill English's entertaining introduction on Saturday to his 23-year-old Gore-based electorate successor, Todd Barclay.

The pair were giving addresses at the National Party Mainland Conference in Queenstown over the weekend - Mr English as Clutha-Southland's retiring MP and Mr Barclay as its new candidate for the party.

In his own humorous version of his young replacement's rise to the National Party ranks, Mr English said an email to his office several years earlier stating simply: ''My name's Todd Barclay. I'm from Dipton. Can I have a job?'' marked the beginning of his former intern's political ambitions.

''So I said 'Yes. Come and see me'.''

Mr English, who is also deputy prime minister, assured his Clutha-Southland constituents they had a capable, hard-working replacement in Mr Barclay, who had demonstrated his commitment to the National Party in his time spent working for the MP.

Mr English felt fortunate to have represented the electorate ''right through the swing from its worst times to its best times'', not only in terms of its dairy farming industry but, more importantly, as it changed its attitude ''to a more outward-looking view of the world''.

Mr Barclay - who has also previously worked for Cabinet ministers Hekia Parata and Gerry Brownlee and for the Philip Morris tobacco company - said it was a ''huge privilege and huge responsibility'' to be selected as the new Clutha-Southland candidate.

Mr English's loyalty, commitment and ''unquestionable integrity'' as an MP left ''incredibly huge shoes that I need to work hard to one day fill'', he said.

Mr Barclay was looking forward to working as ''team Southland'' with new Invercargill candidate Sarah Dowie, who also addressed the conference along with her electorate's retiring MP, Eric Roy.

Earlier, Prime Minister John Key received a rousing welcome from delegates. Looking forward to Thursday's Budget announcement, he said health would benefit to the tune of

$15 billion. However, New Zealand's books were heading back into surplus.

''Six years ago, the Treasury never believed this country would get back into surplus again ... debt looked to be $50 billion to $60 billion.

''[We have] $90 billion to $100 billion less debt because of the actions of our Minister of Finance.''

Mr Key said business confidence in New Zealand was ''pretty much'' on a 20-year high, consumer confidence was high and each week 1500 New Zealanders left welfare for paid employment.

 

Selection could be seen as an insult

I'm sure Mr Barclay is a very pleasant and well-intentioned young man.

However, at 23 and with his limited CV, his selection will be seen by some as an insult to the people of the Clutha-Southland electorate. If elected, and given the strong National support there is every reason to expect Mr Barclay will be elected, how can the electorate expect a 23 year-old whose work experience is limited to politics and tobacco lobbyists to represent their issues and concerns in a way which will be given weight by other members of parliament?

He needed much more real-life work or academic experience and seasoning before being put forward for selection. That he has been selected now verges on treating the electorate with contempt.