Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 16. September 8th 1971
The lifelessness of proceedings on Friday and Saturday could perhaps be excused in the light of the historic leadership challenge. For weeks before the conference, political commentators had been assessing the motives and chances of Mr Chapman. Here was a confrontation between the Hawkes Bay farmer and an Upper Hutt accountant - a progressive - conservative split, or rural urban? The frustration that must have initiated the challenge could be appreciated after hearing Mr Holt's address and seeing the heavy and dispirited manner in which he controlled full conference. Mr Chapman, by way of contrast, brought humour and subtlety into his chairmanship of one of the remit committees. The loss of Marlborough had first jolted National's sense of security and there was probably a feeling that next time they would be out of office if tactics were not modernized.
Friday and Saturday had this issue hanging over them. Certainly the main hall on Monday moring had a tenseness about it. This was undoubtedly the testing point of the conference the historic moment of utter anticlimax.
In fact of course inertia won. The party delegates, lulled into a slumber by the harmoney of self-congratulation of the previous few days were not ready to acknowledge the need for change. What the margin for voting was cannot be known. So National maintained an air of solidarity and 'we're all right'. And the conference subsided into irrelevance. That weekend in Dunedin might have refreshed and enthused more susceptible party members. To the general public, it deservedly passed unnoticed. On New Zealand politics it will have left not a trace.
For the National party, the only hope of change would seem to be a resounding defeat at next year's election.