NZ First succession plan

There has been a lot of speculation about what Winston Peters’ political plans are, which is all that can be done because he never says.

Included increasingly in the speculation is what might happen to NZ First after Peters retires, and whether there is a succession plan.

Peters has been undisputed leader of NZ First since the beginning, way back in the last century.

Ron Mark took over the deputy leadership from Tracey Martin in 2015.

So what are the leadership options for NZ First? Peters is 72, his health has long been questioned (but never confirmed), and he seems to have lost his edge and enthusiasm in Parliament.

Duncan Garner: There’s an election looming and Winston Peters has got a succession problem to sort

… at 72 it’s no secret Peters will be thinking about what’s next for the party and with the momentum he has in the polls currently, this is the year to bring in the succession plan.

Take a look around the caucus and the options are a bit lacking – not because there aren’t any MPs successful in their own right. There’s business brains, legal brains and hard workers, but there’s no real X factor.

Mark seems to have ambitions but unlike Peters the media doesn’t give him self promotion opportunities.

In his sixties Mark is not a spring chicken himself, he’s more of an autumn rooster with more crow than peck.

The reality is nobody in the NZ First caucus wants to talk about the worst-kept secret in town – Shane Jones joining the party – because he’s the answer to the party’s prayers, but not necessarily their own.

Jones has spark, he’s clued-up, he knows how to work a crowd and people can’t help but like him.

The media seem to be doing their best to play the game for Jones but it’s yet to be seen whether headlines translate into votes. Peters has his wine box to show for his efforts, Jones is best remembered for his porn tab.

Only problem is – and it’s one Peters is well aware of – is his deputy Ron Mark’s place in the bromance.

Mark has been loyal to Peters and they’re mates – even if Peters knows his second-in-command still has a thing or two to learn about how to talk to voters without rubbing them up the wrong way.

The way the Jones game is being played suggests that Peters sees him as the captain to succeed him.

When Jones likely announces his candidacy in the next couple of weeks Peters is going to need one hell of a team-building day for his caucus before heading out on the campaign trail.

While Mark might say he “likes” Jones and plays rugby with him – you don’t have to look too far to find the opportunities he’s taken to have a dig.

Last year he complimented Jones on doing a “very good job” in his role as Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development – but in the same breath threw in the fact it was a job set up for him by then-Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

It does Mark well to point out that Jones, a former Labour MP, then moved on to take a cushy job with National and is now looking for a foot in the door with his old pal, Winston.

Just this week Mark was asked whether he thought he and his deputy leadership was under threat from Jones.

“To perceive there’s a threat to yourself you have to have some sort of insecurity about yourself and I am comfortable with the job I have and what I do for the party,” he shot back at reporters.

Mark may not roll over easily.

One thing in Peters’ favour is he has a disciplined caucus – although much of that is probably to do with the fact there’s a lot they simply don’t get told.

If Peters stands down so does that long standing discipline.

Internal polling isn’t shared with the caucus because it’s a distraction and Peters doesn’t want his MPs losing sight of the prize.

a) NZ First does internal polling despite the disdain for polls often expressed by Peters?

b) Peters doesn’t share polling with the NZ First caucus? If so, remarkable.

And if a NZ First MP gets heard or quoted talking about what they might get in any coalition government after the election they can be assured they’ll find themselves sliding down the party list, which is set to be announced in early August.

NZ First MPs have slid out of contention before, with an apparent helping boot up the bum from Peters.

Peters is adamant he’s got some big players joining the party list – names he says anyone in politics will recognise.

But if Peters wants to have more time at sea fishing then based on the current list, he needs Jones.

Given the blue movie controversy and dodgy citizenship deal jibes Jones is going to have to endure you have to wonder, what exactly has he been offered to seriously consider a return to Parliament?

If Peters wants NZ First to survive after he retires he has to help it with a succession plan.

Part of that plan may well be to get Jones on board, position NZ First on the cross benches after the election and both enable and prove a pain in the arse to whoever runs the Government, while giving Jones a chance to get set as leader in waiting. Peters may well retire during the next term.

But no matter how he plans things, and no matter how smoothly any leadership transition is, NZ First without Winston will find the going very tough – especially if  two cocks like Mark and Jones compete to rule the hen pecked house.


  1. Chris

     /  June 3, 2017

    NZ First would not be the only organisation who has this problem of succession.
    I am involved in a Support trust which was set up over 20 years ago, and I have only been a Trustee since September last year.
    We are helping out after the Earthquake in South Marlborough and the majority of Trustees don’t know what day it is , and when there are alternative suggestions made they don’t like it as they say this is our trust and this is the way we do it.
    People in whatever roll need to know when they are past their “use-by date” and simply retire with good grace, after all if they dropped dead tomorrow, there will always be someone who will step up and fill the void.

  2. Gezza

     /  June 3, 2017

    Has Shane Jones actually said he’s joining up with NZ First yet ?
    I don’t know that much about the guy & I note the article quoted above says he knows how to work a crowd, but personally I’ve never seen or hesrd anything from the guy, especially as a former Minister & MP, that would give me a high opinion of him, his principles, or his potential ability to lead a horse, let alone a political party. Quite the reverse. Open to being persuaded by anyone who knows him better though.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  June 3, 2017

      Jones has the right genes to inherit Winnie’s northern support. Marks doesn’t – probably fatal to his aspirations. The Maori oligarchy rules.

    • PDB

       /  June 3, 2017

      Mark and Jones will not be able to work together – the huge ego’s of both being the problem.

      Without Winston, NZL First is a 2-4% party. Traditional Labour party people disenfranchised by the current mob should set up their own centrist – centre/left party that is free from the small-interest groups infesting Labour and the Greens.

  3. Chuck Bird

     /  June 3, 2017

    If Winston could get Alan Duff to stand he could be a credible successor. Duff has indicated he is coming home soon.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  June 3, 2017

      Duff has some financial history millstones around his neck that I would have thought fatal for a political career.

  4. Chuck Bird

     /  June 3, 2017

    I did not realize that. You can learn something quite often by commenting on a blog.