The other new (deputy) leader – Fletcher Tabuteau

The NZ First caucus yesterday selected Fletcher Tabuteau as their deputy leader, replacing Ron Mark (who is a Minister in the current Government).

NEW ZEALAND FIRST DEPUTY LEADER VOTE

New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters says the new Deputy Leader of New Zealand First is Fletcher Tabuteau MP.

“New Zealand First indicated last week that it would consider the deputy-leadership position at its caucus meeting this morning,” said Mr Peters.

“After careful consideration, the caucus today supported Fletcher Tabuteau to take over the role, and I congratulate him on this appointment as deputy-leader.”

“New Zealand First extends its immense gratitude for the service of Ron Mark as deputy leader. The party recognises Ron is an integral member of the team and we look forward to him playing a key role in the current government in his capacity as Minister of Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs,” he said.

Fletcher Tabuteau has been a member of the party since its inception and is currently serving second term as a member of parliament. With the formation of the new government he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister for Regional Economic Development.

And:

FLETCHER TABUTEAU CONFIRMED AS NEW ZEALAND FIRST DEPUTY LEADER

It is my honour to announce that today I was successfully nominated as the Deputy Leader of New Zealand First.

The role comes with significant responsibility and I am delighted to have received the confidence of my caucus colleagues.

I have had the privilege of working with the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters for a number of years and I now look forward to working closely with him and my caucus colleagues as the Deputy Leader.

Having been a member of the party since its inception, this step represents my commitment to New Zealand First and its founding principles of putting New Zealand and all New Zealanders first.

There is a lot of work to get on with and I am up to the challenge with a great team of people around me.

I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my predecessor the Hon Ron Mark who has served as a loyal Deputy Leader of the Party.

It is an exciting time to be a part of the fundamental paradigm shift of a new Government as both the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister for Regional Economic Development, and now as the Deputy Leader of New Zealand First.

I look forward to being a part of the party leadership as we look to consolidate the past 25 years and look to the future as an integral part of government, mindful as ever that we will continue to grow our membership and support base.

Tabuteau is aged 47. He became an MP via the NZ First list in 2014 and again in 2017 – he was ranked fourth on the list both times, ahead of Mark (who was 9th) in 2014, but two places behind Mark in 2017.

After the formation of a Labour-NZ First-Green government in October 2017 Tabuteau was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, and Under-Secretary to the Minister for Regional Economic Development, Shane Jones.

This looks a bit like a succession plan for NZ First, but while Peters remains leader Tabuteau may have difficulty building much of a profile.

National deputy going to a vote

As well as voting for a new leader next week the National caucus will also vote for a deputy. Paula Bennett is currently the deputy leader.

Newsroom: National deputy leadership will also go to vote

National MPs will vote on February 27 for the new leader, with party whip Jamie Lee Ross announcing there would also be a vote for the deputy position.

“Paula came to me last week and said she felt it was important there be a vote for deputy leader and the caucus has confirmed that.”

It makes sense to have choice of deputy once the new leader has been chosen. One of the unsuccessful leadership contenders may have a go at becoming deputy.

A problem with Kelvin Davis

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern stepped up into the role of Labour leader, and stepped up further in post-election negotiations, as new Prime Minister and generally in her role in international politics (Manus aside).

Not so Kelvin Davis. It seemed to be a good idea to appoint him deputy to Ardern, he had appeared to be a good prospect, he complimented Ardern and he strengthened Labour’s Maori mana.

But Davis always seemed uncomfortable in the role. Some initial swagger was swept aside after he made some poor comments, and he slipped into the background, probably by design of Labour’s campaign.

He has been forced into the foreground again over the last week as acting Prime Minister when both Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were overseas. Davis was unimpressive fronting for the Government in Parliament this week. He stonewalled without conviction.

Jo Moir at Stuff talks tough: Labour has a problem – the trainwreck of acting prime minister Kelvin Davis

For the last week, Kelvin Davis has been acting prime minister and it’s been nothing short of a trainwreck.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Winston Peters, have been cutting deals and forging relationships on the international stage in Vietnam and the Philippines, Davis has been left back in New Zealand to handle the day-to-day business.

Before embarking on this week-long mission, Davis was pretty cool and calm about the whole thing and even described the role as a “figurehead” position.

In this column a week ago, I congratulated Davis for doing an excellent job of saying absolutely nothing, but nobody seriously thought that was a strategy Labour could keep up.

Roll on to Tuesday and Davis was back in the House facing Opposition Leader Bill English on statistical steroids as he did what he does best – stringing together sentences with enough jargon and numbers to make a Treasury report look like child’s play.

National worked out a long time ago that Davis was the weak link in the Labour leadership team and the party is in overdrive finding every way possible to expose that.

Every question Davis had thrown at him on Tuesday was answered first in muffled tones by ministers Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson. Davis then stood up and repeated the answers.

I hadn’t noticed that. Question 1 from Tuesday:

You can see it at times here, with Robertson prompting Davis on some answers and appearing to act as his minder.

The ministers didn’t even try to hide the fact they were doing it and Davis blatantly looked to them every time before rising to his feet.

It was like a seriously bizarre game of Chinese whispers that started at Twyford and ran along the front bench until the message was received by Davis.

That wasn’t noticeable on video but must have stood out from the press gallery.

Wednesday arrived. It was a new day; perhaps a new strategy? Not a chance.

There were only two political stories anyone was interested in that day – North Korea and the Government’s net debt target, economists having warned billions would need to be borrowed over the coming years.

As the media gathered on “the tiles”, where ministers are questioned on their way into the House, Davis strode across the bridge toward journalists on his own.

Davis got thrown to the pack and desperately tried to keep his head above water.

Asked what year Labour wanted to reduce net debt to 20 per cent of GDP by, Davis stumbled around before spluttering “over the economic cycle”.

Unconvinced, the reporter asked again, yes, but what year?

Red-faced and out of his depth, Davis conceded he had lost and switched to straight-up honesty, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that”.

This is a key policy of Labour’s and, yes, it’s hard to remember lots of numbers and years but Davis was presumably well prepped on this topic and still didn’t get across the line.

Was Davis prepped? Or is he just being left to flounder by Labour?

Things didn’t get much better in Question Time. The Opposition had not one but three questions lined up for Davis to put him under pressure in a number of portfolios.

But that’s not before he had made a clarification to the House, after saying the week before in answer to a question about the cost of additional police that “those costs have been finalised”.

Actually, “those costs have yet to be finalised”.

This isn’t just a problem with Davis. There seems to be a problem across Labour with different stories on a number of topics – there appears to be a lack of communication and knowledge on key policies.

In Question 1 on Wednesday Davis tried a different strategy – he gave all his answers in Maori, which mewant that many people listening would not know what he said, but again they were vague and ‘in due course’ answers. Nothing answers.

The problem Labour has is that Robertson is the obvious person to be acting prime minister and actually there’s no reason he can’t be.

Peters is barely ever going to fill that role because chances are if Jacinda Ardern’s out of the country, then, as foreign affairs minister, he’s likely to be too.

Labour needs Davis to remain the party’s deputy leader because his promotion to that role ahead of the election was a smart one and no doubt went a long way to helping it win all seven Māori seats.

A smart campaign strategy – once they worked out that Davis needed to be kept in the background. But not so smart it seems when it comes to governing.

But the party can’t sustain the cringeworthy chaos on display of late and it needs a new plan by the time Ardern and Peters jet out of the country again.

Ardern can appoint Robertson in the acting role and keep Davis as deputy leader. It’s messy, but not as messy as what was on display last week.

Failing that, the Government can choose who answers questions in the House on behalf of the prime minister.

If Ardern is away, then Robertson needs to be nominated as acting leader for the purposes of the House at least. It doesn’t solve the issue of press conferences but it gets halfway there.

Labour obviously has a problem with Davis, who is more than struggling.

They have wider problems with mixed messages over a number of policies, so overall their policy decisions and communication needs to improve.

Ardern and Peters are back in the country so the Davis problem can be forgotten for a while, but if Davis can’t step up into a leadership role then Labour need to seriously look at his position.

Robertson must be frustrated, he looked like he was squirming in Parliament each time Davis got up to speak.

Q+A suggest new Labour deputy

Yesterday @NZQandA tweeted:

QARobertsonDeputy

Just a mistake?

Or was someone getting ahead of themselves?

That was deleted and replaced by:

But not before some responses:

 

Ardern confirmed as deputy

Jacinda Ardern was unopposed and therefore confirmed as Labour deputy leader today, as expected so it didn’t get much attention.

Someone at The Standard – ‘Notices and Features’ – tried a ra ra post Congratulations Jacinda Ardern! but it got a lukewarm response with not many bothering to comment.

Here is Labour’s Facebook pic:

LittleArdernLabour

Meanwhile it was kinda funny to see that King has been featured in Woman’s Weekly:

How was that organised so quickly?

 

King of the deputy castle, media dirty rascals

Annette King has reacted staunchly to media speculation that Jacinda Ardern may (some say should) replace her as deputy leader.

Claire Trevett @ZH: Annette King lashes out at ‘ageist’ idea of stepping to one side

Ardern’s win in Mt Albert prompted fresh speculation Little should replace his steady pacemaker King with the crowd-pleasing sprinter Ardern as deputy for the home straight to the election.

There is sense in that.

I don’t see the sense to that. Ardern can try to please the crowd without being deputy. Having a strong deputy who can keep the Labour caucus under control is important, and King is far bettter qualified to do that.

But King can not see it. King’s response was a quite astonishing and vociferous defence of her turf.

I’m not astonished. I’m astonished that media and pundits think they can organise deputy leadership changes.

She claimed the talk around Ardern was ageist. She even went a little bit Trump, accusing media of having a vendetta against her.

I don’t think it is a vendetta against King. It is the media thinking that they are political players rather than reporters.

Speaking to the Herald she questioned what Ardern could offer that she did not, other than relative youth.

When it was suggested Ardern’s Auckland base was one, King replied “does it really matter these days?” and said she could travel the country as a list-only candidate.

Ardern’s Auckland base, her ability to communicate well from children to Auckland business leaders, her popularity and her deft touch with ‘soft’ media make her an asset Little could better utilise by having her as his deputy.

It is an asset he cannot afford to ignore.

Little can use his Ardern ‘asset’ in better ways than tying her down as deputy. She has just taken on substantial added responsibility as a new electorate MP in Auckland, giving her much greater responsibilities in Wellington at the same time makes no sense.

King’s value to Little is indisputable but largely for internal reasons – she is in Wellington to run the ship while he travels the country and can control caucus with one pinky finger.

That sounds like a job description for a deputy.

The trouble is he cannot risk replacing her now King has publicly stated her wish to remain in the job.

Little could take the risk of upsetting the likes of MP Poto Williams and Maryan Street over his decision to recruit Willie Jackson to Labour, but he can not afford to get offside with King.

King has great loyalty in Labour and Little will not be able to replace her unless she recognises it is a necessary idea herself.

He somehow has to make it seem like it was her idea all along.

It’s fairly obviously not King’s idea at all.

Some of the media are trying to manipulate Labour Party leadership. This is way outside their job description.

Little and King call the shots when it comes to deputy leadership of Labour.

Trevett and others in the media are dirty rascals trying to intervene and influence what is a party matter.

Labour – co-deputies?

Labour leadership is in the news again with 3 News  releasing the results of a Reid Research poll on deputy leadership.

  • Jacinda Ardern 33%
  • Annette King 25%
  • Don’t know/don’t care 28%

King was appointed deputy to Andrew Little last November but only for a year:

Annette King new Labour deputy

Mrs King, who was deputy to Phil Goff from 2008 to 2011, will hold the job for a year before stepping aside.

There’s been suggestions recently that King is reconsidering and may want to stay on as deputy.

King is a very experienced asset to Labour. She is respected by a better performing caucus. But she has been around since 1984 and Labour need to be seen to be renewing. And King and Little are both Wellington based.

If King steps aside then Ardern is a logical choice for deputy, giving balance as  young Auckland woman MP with obvious appeal to the public.

King has actually been mentoring Ardern.

If Ardern is appointed to the deputy role it would mean that both Labour’s leaders are list MPs. There are pros and cons with that.

She’s relatively inexperienced, especially in a leadership role, but the way to develop that is to practice it.

There may be a good case for having co-deputy leaders, putting the experience of King alongside the youth of Ardern.

NZ First slow to show new deputy

NZ First say that they had a vote for deputy leader last Tuesday, when Ron Mark defeated Tracey Martin in what is claimed to be a close vote and against the wishes of Winston Peters.

The NZ First website has scant sign that there has been any change in leadership.

Apart from Peters on their Home page the only sign of any other MP is a photo of ex-deputy, Tracey Martin (although on re-checking that is a coincidence of timing, it seems to rotate through the MPs), apart from an MP list with Mark well down the list (ninth, his 2014 list position).

NZFirstHome

There is no sign of change on their Our MPs page with Martin still at two and Mark still at nine in the pecking order.

NZFirstOurMPs

The News page highlights three old clips from Parliament, but if you scroll far enough down there’s an item on the deputy change from Friday:

NZFirstNewsPage

Curiously this highlights Martin rather than Mark.

However their Facebook page is more up with the news:

NZFirstFacebook

Ron Mark – “we don’t find it strange at all”

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”.

RonMarkStrange

“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.