Tracey Martin

The minor parties – some thoughts & questions

The Greens

They ran a blinder of a campaign. Their polling numbers were looking great, as they closed on 15% in some polls. Then they got just 10.02% on the night (although their vote share is likely to rise by at least a small amount once the special votes are counted – Graeme Edgeler estimates to 10.5% if they got the same proportion of specials as they did in 2011).

What happened? Is it a voter turnout issue? Did the Greens actually slump abruptly in the final days of the campaign? Or do the polls have a bias towards the Greens?

Going forward, the Greens have some big decisions to make. They’ve loudly declared on many an occasion that they want to supplant Labour as the major party of the Left. So do they try for a more centrist approach to grow their vote? There were elements of such an approach in their policy of personal tax cuts to offset the effects of their planned carbon tax. If they want to supplant Labour, that’s what they’ve got to do, but will their membership allow it?

For much of the last term, the Greens were the de facto opposition in Parliament, with Labour failing to fire. Yet in the build-up to the campaign, the Greens offered to campaign together with Labour. The offer had a dual purpose: to show a Government-in-waiting, and to try to reduce the relevance of Winston Peters. Do the Greens go hammer and tongs for Labour’s vote share, or do the two parties attempt to work together to present a united front of opposition?

NZ First

Winston Peters is getting old. For most of last term, he was an embarrassment, lurching from one badly contrived attack to another, each one failing to fire; a collection of not-so-smoking guns. The campaign itself seemed to have rejuvenated him. He certainly saw off the young pretender, Colin Craig, and raised the NZ First vote in the process.

Is he good for another election campaign or will this have been his swan-song? If this is his final term, he’ll be leaving after a comeback of six years without baubles. Winston likes baubles, no matter what he might publicly say, so does he try again in 2017 in the hope of one final Ministerial stint?

The other thing Winston wants is for NZ First to continue on after he’s gone. It’s always been Winston First – no succession plan, no contrary views allowed. He’d like nothing better than to prove wrong all of those critics who for twenty-one years have said that once Winston goes, so too will NZ First.

Ron Mark is back and is being touted as a possible successor. However, if Andrew Williams’ allegations about deputy-leader Tracey Martin are correct, then woe betide anyone who sees themselves as competition to her right of succession! Life in NZ First could get interesting…

The Conservatives

Colin Craig got played by John Key, strung along for just long enough, before being thrown under the bus. Nonetheless, right up until the final few days, Craig and his party ran a remarkably focussed, relatively gaffe-free campaign. Despite being out-manouevered on occasion by Winston Peters, the Conservatives grew their vote share to just over 4%.

It wasn’t enough to get them in to Parliament, but it wasn’t a bad result on a night when National made over 48%. If Craig can keep his core team together, then they’ll have a good shot at breaking 5% in 2017.

The Maori Party

The critics said they were finished in 2014. With Turia and Sharples retiring, Mana were going to wipe out Te Ururoa Flavell, and the Maori Party would perish. Well, Flavell’s still there, with a relatively comfortable majority, and Mana is no more. And, assuming the special votes don’t do something odd, Flavell’s brought in Marama Fox with him, so it won’t be an entirely lonely three years.

If Flavell wants it, National would probably give him the Maori Affairs portfolio. Key doesn’t need to in order to govern, but he’ll be looking to keep Flavell on-side through to 2017. It’ll give the Maori Party some policy gains and keep Flavell’s profile up, and the party will look to remain competitive in seats like Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru.

Internet Mana

And that took care of that then…

The Internet Party was nothing more than a vehicle for Kim Dotcom’s ego and vengeance, and with Dotcom admitting that his personal brand poisoned the combined Internet Mana vehicle, the Internet Party will soon be no more. Dotcom certainly won’t be pouring his money into it, and there’s no real reason for anyone to stick around. Laila Harre’s pay cheque disappears, along with what’s left of her credibility.

Likewise, with no party leader funding for Hone Harawira, and precious few alternate sources of income, the Mana Movement is dead. Harawira took a gamble, sick of being a one man band in Parliament, and it all turned to custard. Annette Sykes did her best in Waiariki, but still came up well short, despite having a full three year campaign and Dotcom’s cash. It’s over.

ACT

Duncan Garner summed it up best when he described David Seymour as being like a five year old about to start High School. Despite winning Epsom (and by all accounts, Seymour put in the hard yards door-knocking to do so), it’s going to be an awkward and ineffectual three years for ACT. Jamie Whyte remains the leader outside of Parliament (for how long though remains to be seen), with Seymour the fresh-faced novice being the voice inside Parliament. Who do the media go to for comment? No one knows…

How do they rebuild? Lord only knows. Their natural constituency is minuscule, and they hold a seat on National’s whim. It’s not a great basis for growth.

United Future

The writing’s on the wall for Peter Dunne. Despite running against new candidates from both Labour and National, and despite having John Key’s personal blessing, Dunne’s majority is just 930. The only MPs with smaller majorities are Nikki Kaye in Auckland Central (648) and Trevor Mallard in Hutt South (378).

The glory days of United Future are long gone. Once upon a time, the worm turned at Captain Sensible’s whim. Now, the Dunne brand is that of a strange political vampire living out some political half-life.

Rebuilding United Future is a laughable proposition. The only question is whether Dunne goes out on his own terms or waits for the inevitable stake through the heart from the good people of Ohariu.

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Andrew Williams lawyers up

Andrew Williams is somewhat annoyed about being dumped completely from the NZ First party list. As such, he’s following in his leader’s footsteps and is lawyering up, seeking a judicial review of the party’s decision.

My immediate response, on hearing the news, was to ask what possible remedy Mr Williams is hoping to achieve? After all, once the party list has been filed with the Electoral Commission, and nominations have closed, there’s no going back. According to s 128C(2) of the Electoral Act, once we reached noon on 26 August, nomination day, no party list can be withdrawn and no further list can be lodged. There’s simply no way for a Court to order that he be substituted onto the NZ First list, even if the party did him wrong.

However, the NZ Herald reports that he’s seeking “an urgent hearing following the election” as doesn’t “wish to derail NZ First’s campaign”. So he’s not seeking, in some Don Quixote-like quest, to receive his previous unwinnable place on the list. Instead, it’s about protecting his reputation:

“I regret that I have no other option other than to take my party to court to protect my reputation.”

Which means that Williams is simply seeking a declaration that the NZ First list ranking committee breached the party’s constitution when it removed him from the list. He says:

“The manner in which I have been mistreated by the party has forced me to seek court declarations that the revocation of my electorate and list candidacies, and my removal from the party list, breached the processes in the party’s constitution for fair treatment.

There are numerous protections in the New Zealand First Constitution to ensure fair treatment, which I have not been accorded. This includes not being given an opportunity to respond to the decision to remove me from the party list.”

Williams is presumably intending to rely on clause 53 of NZ First’s Constitution, which sets out the process by which a List candidate’s candidacy can be revoked. Essentially, if the party’s Board resolves that revocation is necessary, clause 53 provides that a meeting shall be called, with the candidate to be given four days notice. The candidate is to be given the right to be heard at the meeting, following which the List Ranking Committee can essentially do whatever they like, be that confirming their place on the list, dropping them down the list or removing them entirely.

Of course, actually following clause 53 would have been somewhat problematic for NZ First. Andrew Williams went public with his attack on deputy leader Tracey Martin and her mother, the party president, on 21 August. With nomination day being 26 August, that would have meant holding a List Ranking Committee meeting the day before nomination day, at the earliest.

That’s assuming that the Board had made a decision on 21 August to review Williams’ list candidacy; if they didn’t make the decision until, say, the next morning, and meeting would then have had to be called on nomination day itself, cutting things a little fine.

And if the Board didn’t make a decision to review Williams’ candidacy until, say, 23 August? Well, you get the picture…

Frankly though, it sounds a lot of money to burn through if the sole end result is going to be a declaration in Williams’ favour. But perhaps Colin Craig’s penchant for litigation is contagious.

“Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever” – the sequel

So a week ago, the rumours were circulating that Andrew Williams was to be demoted from number 3 on the NZ First list to number 13, to which I wrote a post entitled “Winston Peters & the NZ First list : “Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever“. Essentially, I was wondering what on earth Mr Williams had done to raise such ire from his party leader, the Great Demagogue, that he would be abruptly dumped from second in command to an unwinnable spot. The last part of the Biblical quote (“thou hast put out their name for ever and ever”) may have been a little exaggerated; after all, Mr Williams was still on the party list.

It was, therefore, a little of a surprise to yesterday find that Mr Williams was now no longer on the list at all. Was he pushed or did he jump? The answer seemed to come from Winston Peters:

“The consequences of not understanding the needs of the party and caucus are huge and they cannot be avoided. When you enter an arrangement to keep it confidential so that it has got some integrity about it, you’re expected to stick to it.”

So there you have it. Andrew Williams – by telling media that his low ranking was due to deputy leader Tracey Martin being out to get him – broke ranks, breached party confidentiality, and was expunged from the list. It may have taken an additional week since my initial post, but his name has now been put out for ever and ever. Winston has spoken.

Of course, Mr Williams wasn’t the only one breaking ranks, although Asenati Lole-Taylor left it till after the list had been published to go public with her concerns. She featured on 3News last night, questioning whether her demotion was due to her Pacific Island accent. Methinks it had rather more to do with her endless succession of bad headlines – asking Government ministers about blow jobs during question time, her incessant Twitter feuds which involved her blocking three quarters of the media, her claim that the Reserve Bank was run by overseas bankers etc. But it could have been worse for her. The leaks from NZ First initially had her at number 17 on the list; with Mr Williams’ disappearance, she moves up one place to number 16!

The news wasn’t excellent either for Denis O’Rourke. At number seven on the list, he’s been leap-frogged by two newcomers – Fletcher Tabuteau (head of Waiariki Institute of Technology’s business school) and Clayton Mitchell (a Tauranga city councillor). It’s perhaps an indication to Mr O’Rourke that his negative headlines this year have outweighed his positive headlines, with allegations that he’d hired his partner (resulting in the bizarre statement that he and his tenant were “deliberately not partners”) and claims that he’d fabricated online business testimonials. If NZ First only just scrapes in with 5%, O’Rourke will be out.

It’s good to see a minor party achieving some rejuvenation through its party list, but when Clayton Mitchell immediately makes headlines for declaring that, if elected, he would continue to be paid as a city councillor in addition to his MPs salary, you do have to wonder whether NZ First is on the cusp of electing another Claudette Hauiti.

Tracey Martin – the power behind the throne

Yesterday, with the news that Andrew Williams has fallen from 3rd to 13th on the draft NZ First party list, I wrote:

Williams would like to know what the selection committee’s criteria were for selecting the top ten candidates. That’s a question answered by David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

“Have spoken to someone close to NZ First and they say that the sole criteria for list ranking is total devotion and loyalty to Winston, so in that context the list makes sense!”

Perhaps others with rather more of a finger on the pulse of NZ First gossip will know what Andrew Williams has done to so upset Mr Peters. It’s a mystery to me…

Well, today, Mr Williams continues to take the feud public, blaming deputy leader Tracey Martin:

New Zealand First MP Andrew Williams has blamed his low list ranking on a clash with the party’s deputy leader, saying she sees him as a threat and wants him “removed”.

The first-term list MP said the party’s No 2, Tracey Martin, and party president Anne Martin, Tracey’s mother, were responsible for his demotion in the rankings.

He said he had clashed with Tracey Martin ever since she became deputy ahead of him a year ago.

So, in Mr Williams’ mind, this is a fight to the death with Tracey Martin over succession. Ms Martin wants the leadership once Winston Peters retires, and Williams is the biggest threat. Which would make the possible resurrection of Ron Marks even more interesting, given the suggestion by myself and others that he might be Peters’ candidate for eventual successor. If Martin has nixed Williams, will she then take aim at Marks?

Nonetheless, I think there must be more to Williams’ reported demotion than simply a clash with Martin. The NZ First List Ranking Committee includes (along with Tracey Martin and her mother) Winston Peters, and the party’s vice-presidents and directors. I find it difficult to believe that Ms Martin and her mother would be able to engineer the eradication of Mr Williams without the approval of Peters.

So the question remains: What did Andrew Williams do to make such an enemy of Winston?

Winston Peters & the NZ First list : “Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever”

Embed from Getty Images

Following NZ First’s rule change allowing the party to fine its MPs $300,000 if they left the party but remained in Parliament, Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish published his mock “ten other NZ First party rules you probably don’t know about“, including such gems as:

If Winston shall bring an accusation against a New Zealand First MP, the accused shall go to the river and leap into the river; and if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house, his wife, his son, his daughters, and all of his cattle. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, then again shall the accused jump into the river, this time with a large concrete block tied unto him.

and

If any person shall steal Winston’s limelight, they shall be put to death.

Andrew Williams may be pondering just what he did to get on Winston Peters’ bad side, with Stuff being leaked the news that Andrew Williams will be ranked number 13 in the NZ First list. That’s a slide of ten places from his number 3 ranking in 2011, and it will likely see him dumped as an MP.

Apparently, there’s worse news for Asenati Lole-Taylor. Andrea Vance confirms on Twitter that she’s been told Lole-Taylor will slide to a definitely unwinnable number 17, well down on her 8th place in the 2011 list.

Lole-Taylor’s demotion would be eminently understandable. Her ability to generate a headline has only ever incurred embarrassment for NZ First during her three years in Parliament. The party would be well shot of her.

However, Andrew Williams has, somewhat surprisingly, been a relatively industrious MP. Following his stint as North Shore Mayor, and the allegations of public urination, drink driving and crazed late-night text messages to the Prime Minister, his first term as a NZ First MP was expected to be one of comic gold. Many were rather disappointed when he kept his head down, leaving the insanity to Lole-Taylor and Richard Prosser (who will apparently take spot number 3 on the list).

Mr Williams certainly seems surprised. The Stuff article states:

Williams said his ranking on the list came as “a bolt out of the blue”.

“I think most people would agree around Parliament I’ve been a pretty able MP,” he said.

“I’ve performed for the party, I’ve done a lot of hard work for the party and I’ve represented the party as well as I could.”

The ranking was no reflection of his ability or contribution, but attributable to internal party politics, Williams said.

Williams would like to know what the selection committee’s criteria were for selecting the top ten candidates. That’s a question answered by David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

Have spoken to someone close to NZ First and they say that the sole criteria for list ranking is total devotion and loyalty to Winston, so in that context the list makes sense!

Perhaps others with rather more of a finger on the pulse of NZ First gossip will know what Andrew Williams has done to so upset Mr Peters. It’s a mystery to me…

On the return though is former NZ First MP, Ron Mark, who Stuff understands will be ranked number 9. NZ First needs slightly more than they got in 2011 to get him in, which is certainly possible. The stench of sleaze surrounding the ninth floor of the Beehive may end up driving some voters from National to NZ First. Whether Dirty Politics will have the positive effect on NZ First that the Teapot Tapes had last election remains to be seen though.

Is it succession time for NZ First? Tracey Martin has certainly been a more than capable Deputy Leader (once the party finally got around to choosing one), but (Prosser- and Lole-Taylor- generated headlines aside) NZ First still remains The Winston Show to the public. Ron Mark still has public recognition, and having been mayor of Carterton since 2010, he’s shown he’s still electable.

Whether it’s Ron Mark or not, Winston Peters surely doesn’t have too many years as a Parliamentarian ahead of him (assuming his party makes the 5% threshold this election). The last thing he will want is for his party to fold as he leaves. Someone needs to be groomed for the leadership. And on that note, Shane Jones can’t be flitting round the Pacific forever…