Is Ron Mark the New Zealand First leader-in-waiting, ready to take over when Winston Peters bows out or conks out?
He was interviewed on The Nation yesterday (repeated Sunday morning on TV3 at 10 am) or you can watch here: Interview: NZ First Deputy Leader Ron Mark.
He uses the terms ‘bizarre’ and ‘strange’ – that could easily apply to the impression he leaves with this interview.
Mark says what he probably needs to say about Peters being the unchallenged boss in perpetuity, but he seems to have some ambition, otherwise he wouldn’t have challenged for the deputy spot.
Mark is a politician with a lot of experience – as he demonstrated by blatantly misleading to media about taking over from Tracey Martin. He confirmed that the vote was on Tuesday but the announcement was deferred to Friday:
And once the votes were taken and the leader was confirmed, and the deputy leader was confirmed… The vote was taken on that. We also established an assistant whip which we hadn’t had before.
The Caucus determined that that should take effect as of the Friday at 10 o’clock, which gave people the chance to see what was left of that session, and we could go to the recess and come back tooled and ready to go. So, that was a Caucus decision to hold it till Friday, and so with effect 10 o’clock Friday, that was when their decision took effect, so…
On Tuesday Mark said: “No I’m not the new deputy leader, and we don’t discuss caucus matters.” (Newstalk ZB)
“Mr Mark also said he was not the new NZ First deputy leader, but would not comment on whether he had made or planned a challenge.” (NZ Herald)
To be fair to Mark it seems that he was bound by a strange Caucus decision to hold of announcing his elevation for three days. He, alongside Winston Peters and the rest of the NZ First MPs had to mislead and effectively lie about what had happened.
Mark was also contradictory when pushed to reveal the vote result.
So how did the vote go? Did you have a clear majority?
Oh, votes are always done in secret, and the votes were counted up by someone who wasn’t an MP, and, actually, no one knows the result.
Do you know the split?
No one knows the result… No one knows what the votes were at the end of the day
They must have been told the actual vote, surely.
Everyone knows the result. But we’ve been told that initially it was a draw. So was it a draw — straight down the middle?
Oh. You guys were saying all sorts of things that there was… Well, clearly it wasn’t a draw.
There were reports that it was a split vote that was resolved by a switch of sides by Richard Prosser. This may or may not be true.
Did Winston Peters vote for you?
I wouldn’t have a clue, actually.
It would be very unusual for a politician to bid for a higher party position without having a very good idea what the numbers were – and especially whether they had the support of their leader or not.
So were there 12 votes cast? Because we’re also hearing that someone abstained.
Oh, for God’s sake. See, this is the trouble. I mean… Nobody abstained, and the fact that that’s even a conversation is absolutely quite bizarre, but then a lot of bizarre things have been said over the last week, and we’re not responsible for that. The people whose mouths, those words, came out from, they’re the people responsible for that – most of them are journalists.
So he claims to not know what the vote was but is certain no one abstained.
What is quite bizarre is having a leadership vote and then pretending nothing had changed for three days. And then claiming to not know what the vote was but stating with apparent certainty aspects of the voting.
If Tracey Martin was doing such a good job, why did she have to go, then?
At the end of the day, it’s a democratic decision. People look at the candidates they have in front of them. They vote according to how they feel it should be, and that’s what happened. So it’s not for me, really, to answer questions like that.
It’s totally up to Mark that Martin ‘had to go’ – he decided that she should go and should be replaced by himself. He can choose whether to answer questions but avoiding them like this isn’t a smart look.
I suppose the thing is, Mr Mark, at some point the party is going to have to start thinking about life without Winston Peters.
Well, that point’s not too— I can’t see that on horizon right now, Lisa, because, you know, Winston’s yet to peak. He, against all the odds, after we got tossed out in 2008, he came back in 2011 against all the predictions, and I think this channel as well. 2011, he came back. 2014, he came back with more MPs. Now he’s just stormed the ramparts of Northland. Mark my words, he hasn’t finished yet, and if anyone thinks that Winston Peters is finished, all I’d say is smell the coffee.
That response can’t be taken seriously. The NZ First caucus chose a new deputy leader and then spent three days trying to fool the media and the country until confirming it had actually happened.
So it’s entirely possible that they are doing more than just thinking about ‘life without Winston’ but won’t be up front and honest about it.
That was most of the interview wasted playing media games with the process and the announcement.
Just before we go, I just want to ask – where do you stand on the spectrum? Because before you decided to stand for New Zealand First, I mean, you were at the National Party conference, you were even approached by ACT, so are you more comfortable to the centre right than the centre left?
Oh, I’m really comfortable as a New Zealand Firster and partly because we’re conservative but very much because we have a compassionate side to us and strong social conscience.
While they may see themselves competing with Colin Craig ‘compassionate’ and ‘conservative’ don’t seem to be prominent traits (of either) – Mark seems to be following in his leader’s footsteps with bull and bluster more noticeable.
Come on, Ron. Are you a possibility for working with the National Party?
I think New Zealand First, Lisa, could possibly work with any political party that’s prepared to do a deal that reflects more of our policies than they might want to consider. But, actually, our policies are all aimed at doing the best thing for New Zealand.
The best for New Zealand? Or the best for the New Zealand First constituency? Pushing for more free travel for pensioners is not exactly “the best thing for New Zealand”.
“We don’t find it strange at all”
It looks like a strange interview to me. Ron Mark does deputy leadership takeovers well, and he does strange well too.
See for yourself – a bizarre interview.
And the full transcript.