Jenny Marcroft tainted but protected (so far)

Serious allegations were made against rookie NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft. Claiming she was under the instruction of a Government Minister she threatened National MP Mark Mitchell.

After Mitchell went public her party leader Winston Peters remarkably instructed her to apologise, something he is unfamiliar with doing, and put it down to ‘a misunderstanding’.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she sought assurance from all NZ First ministers – Peters, Ron Mark, Shane Jones and Tracey Martin – that they were not involved and has accepted their denials.

RNZ: Nats out for blood over Marcroft-Mitchell dust-up

Mr Mitchell said NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft told him over the weekend to stop supporting a project in his Rodney electorate if he wanted it to get public funding.

He said he was also asked for an assurance National would not ask questions about the Mahurangi River Restoration Project in Parliament if it went ahead.

“Ms Marcroft told me this was because the government was unhappy with me revealing the illegitimate use of Defence Force aircraft by Defence Minister Ron Mark.”

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Mitchell said Ms Marcroft – who entered Parliament last year – had revealed she was acting on behalf of an unnamed minister.

Ms Marcroft declined to comment when contacted by RNZ, but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said in a statement Mr Mitchell had “misunderstood her underlying point”.

“After the conversation had got out of hand [Ms Marcroft] consulted with me late on Saturday afternoon and was advised by me to issue an apology,” said Mr Peters.

“Ms Marcroft was not under instructions by any NZ First Ministers regarding funding … New Zealand First does not seek to constrain opposition MPs from criticism of the government.”

That is not a full denial that a Minister was involved – “not under instructions by any NZ First Ministers regarding funding”.

It is a very big stretch to think that Marcroft, the most junior NZ First MP, would do anything like this one her own. It is also a stretch to believe that Peters was not in the know to some extent, given his influence and control in NZ First.

Mr Mitchell rejected the response and said he had yet to receive an apology.

“There was certainly no misunderstanding at all … I was very, very clear on the message I’d been given and I was also very clear with Jenny with what I thought about that.”

He said the only response he’d had from NZ First was a text message from Ms Marcroft an hour after the meeting at Orewa Surf Club.

“Hi Mark, on reflection I have considered the substance of our conversation to be incorrect and would therefore ask that you kindly disregard it. Thank you for your generosity in this matter.”

That’s remarkable – not an apology, but also not a denial. It appears that, at best, Marcroft ‘misunderstood’ instructions from someone in NZ First and then retracted.

Stuff: Junior NZ First MP trying to use Govt fund to heavy Opposition ‘acting alone’ – PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had sought assurances from every NZ First Minister that they had not sent NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft to do their bidding, when she threatened Mitchell that funding for a local river restoration project would be in doubt if he did not cease his involvement.

Ardern said the matter had been resolved and she would not be looking into it further.

She has said that as she is satisfied that a Minister wasn’t involved it is not her problem, it’s a NZ First matter. It is still a serious matter.

Ardern was questioned about it in Parliament yesterday by Simon Bridges.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was the discussion where the Prime Minister “sought assurances” from Tracey Martin regarding Jenny Marcroft and the provincial growth fund carried out by her in person; if not, how was it carried out?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will know from the sequence of events that I outlined that I intended to seek assurances from each member on the Tuesday morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: Intended?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, at that point, I hadn’t done that. Immediately after, I phoned each of those Ministers and spoke with them directly. Of course, the phone was a quicker way for me to be able to do that.

Hon Simon Bridges: So how long was that phone call with Tracey Martin?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Seeking an assurance from a Minister that they were not involved in a situation doesn’t take that long.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has the Prime Minister or her office done any further checks to corroborate Tracey Martin’s version of events?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I take Ministers who work within Cabinet at their word, as, I’m sure, the leader takes his members at their word. That is how Cabinet operates.

Paula Bennett also asked Winston Peters about the matter.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why did the Deputy Prime Minister put out a statement on Monday under the heading of “Deputy Prime Minister” when now we are informed that he has no responsibility for the content?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I think, with precision, I was seeking to help out my friend Mr Mitchell and make sure he was on the straight and narrow.

Hon Paula Bennett: So what does he mean, then, by saying that Mr Mitchell needs to be on the straight and narrow?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Ah yes, well, given how wide the parameters of behaviour are in that party, I know that’s a great stricture, but what I’m really trying to ensure is that he gets the correct story before he wantonly goes public with it.

Hon Paula Bennett: So the question is, then: what is the correct story when he was approached by a member of the Deputy Prime Minister’s party who informed him that he had been sent by a Minister; so is the correct story that he was sent by one of your Ministers?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I can deal with that very, very easily. The responsibility for the member of the party is not that of the Deputy Prime Minister, and responsibility for the Minister is not either. That is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, but there is no ministerial responsibility for the actions of backbench members of Parliament.

Hon Paula Bennett: What was the underlying point that he refers to frequently, and what is the message that Mr Mark needed to get on Saturday afternoon?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The underlying point would have been that this was about a conversation to do with the provincial growth fund; that because of the previous Government having thrown Warkworth and Wellsford against their wishes into the super-city, they could not qualify; but that because we are an open-minded party it would not pre-empt us trying to see our way through it in the future to help the people from Warkworth. [Interruption] But it’s what I’m saying and it’s a fact.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he still believe that “transparency and openness” is the middle name of this Government, as he’s said previously, when both Minister Tracey Martin and MP Jenny Marcroft avoid media questions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member cannot answer it, because he—I don’t care if he wants to. The member cannot answer it because that is not an area that he has any ministerial responsibility for.

It is obvious where National are looking for responsibility for Marcroft’s approach to Mitchell.

If a National back bencher had done anything like what Marcroft had done while in government it is easy to imagine how Peters would have acted.  Typically he would have implied he had evidence, he would have demanded resignations, and he would have pursued the matter for some time.

National may be taking there time with this. Marcroft has not been held to account properly yet, and if someone did instruct her then there is more holding to account would be appropriate.

This is potentially a far more serious matter than the Curran meeting, but which took most of the media’s attention yesterday.

This may or may not be a Government problem, but regardless, it adds to an appearance of the coalition government being out of control. With the other problems Ardern is having to deal with, and some of them not very well, this could end up being a big deal early in their term of government.

I wouldn’t be surprised if National took this further in Question Time today. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Tracey Martin found she had more important ministerial business elsewhere.

20 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  March 29, 2018

    the juice extractor working over time on…very dry…fruit.

    • So I see. Perhaps you could actually address the topic, or is it too juicy for you? You seem to have had a preference for nuts lately, or at least squirrels.

      • Blazer

         /  March 29, 2018

        these ‘stories’ are political beat ups of little importance.The last administration made a mockery of transparency,integrity and…. accountability.Bennett alone should have been sacked on numerous occassions.Do the public really…care?

        • I doubt that the public cares much about Bennett these days.

          Quite a few journalists seem to care about Hirschfeld, and not so much about Curran.

          It’s fair to hold Curran to account over transparency, democracy and open government. I remember her influence at red Alert, where she did her best to shut down anyone who talked about things she didn’t want raised. A bit like you here at times.

          • Gezza

             /  March 29, 2018

            Don’t be too hard on him. He’s giving me free lessons in patheticism & squirrelling

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  March 29, 2018

          These stories are about taxpayers’ money being used as political slush funds and weapons so, yes, taxpayers and voters do care.

          • NOEL

             /  March 29, 2018

            Sorry but I guessing that many Joe Kiwis consider it another round of political bear baiting and are not interested.

            • NOEL

               /  March 29, 2018

              All you down tickers here is a challenge.
              Walk down your main street and ask 50 people at random “can you tell me what the current issue around MP Jenny Marcroft”

            • Dave K

               /  March 29, 2018

              Given most Kiwi get their political info from the media, so maybe it says more about New Zealand media’s view of the world than Joe’s

              Normally political corruption would be big news, but not so it seems in the idiocene

  2. But its fun watching Peters making it up on his feet and any little errors are swept up by Mallard… play a straight bat indeed.
    Are either or both part Australian ?

  3. Zedd

     /  March 29, 2018

    Elephant in the room; It is a THREE party coalition; not just a ‘Ruling party’ surrounded by ‘yes-folks’ (as per last Govt.).. welcome to MMP !
    There is a difference between ‘Holding a Govt. to account’ (reason why Greens gave them their Questions) & just throwing CRAP from the side-lines; Natl have moved from Denial to ANGER (next stage of grief from loss ?)

    btw; It is actual Parliament; not school-yard bully-boy tactics.. Mr Mitchell…get with the program

  4. NOEL

     /  March 29, 2018

    In the end there is S409 which applies to all members especially in this case Marcroft.

    They appear to have failed with the Cabinet Manual clause, which applies only to Ministers, and around which these current questions are aimed.

    “….there is no ministerial responsibility for the actions of backbench members of Parliament.” probably a good indication of the result.

  5. Zedd

     /  March 29, 2018

    … & Natl are as ‘white/pure as snow’ apparently.. (not just their old men leadership mentality)
    WAKE UP you numbskulls, this is a coalition MMP Govt. actually trying to look out for ALL kiwis not just the top 50.1%
    ….thus spake a skull in a cap 😀

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 29, 2018

      Wise old (white?) men laughing at you, Zedd
      And what makes you think we don’t care about our families, friends and fellow kiwis? We’ve spent our lives providing for them.

      • Zedd

         /  March 29, 2018

        well thats your point of view Alan W.. just as others have theirs.. 😦

  6. Mallard’s speakership has been questionable at best this week.Quite how he was able to rule on Tuesday that a statement from Peters on Deputy PM letterhead had been wrongly typed on that letterhead by a staffer, therefore Peters could not be quizzed on it was farcical. He then doubled down yesterday.

    It seems pretty obvious that Tracey Martin instructed Jenny Marcroft to warn Mitchell off. That was a massive error of judgment on Martin’s part, given Mitchell’s police and military past, and grossly unfair to put a new MP in that position.

    • Zedd

       /  March 29, 2018

      funny that when Mr Key was ‘put on the spot’ about the ‘capacity’ he was speaking in; PM, Natl leader, local electorate member of ‘just plain’ Mr K.. many (on the right) seemed to believe him.. but they are happy to hold a ‘blow torch’ to Mr P for doing likewise; DOUBLE standards ++ !!! 😦

      • Blazer

         /  March 29, 2018

        dead right Zedd…the wearing different hats defence has been accepted,the precedent set…and should be utilised by the Govt.Honesty doesn’t appear to pay..in NZ politics anymore…Key and co plumbed,new depths.

        • Gezza

           /  March 29, 2018

          Well, yes, they did. And the left rightly criticised the hell out of them for it. And the right crowed about how it wasn’t wrong for … whatever reason.

          But now there’s an expectation from the right that the same principles apply to a leftist government, & that they can be criticised for similar misdemeanours.

          And an expectation from us non-aligned that the left will defend them, and the right will complain about the left’s inconsistency.

  1. Jenny Marcroft tainted but protected (so far) — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition