New deputy predicted for NZ First

There has never been any doubt who will lead NZ First while Winston Peters remains an MP, but the deputy spot is less secure. In 2015 Ron Mark got the numbers to oust Tracey Martin, but it looks like the knives are out for Mark, with the position up for a caucus vote next week.

Martin and Shane Jones appear to be too busy to consider going for it, so it looks like the way is open to Fletcher Tabuteau to take on some more responsibility.

Stuff: NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark looks set to be rolled at caucus on Tuesday

They say what goes around comes around and in Ron Mark’s case he’ll be hoping that’s not the case.

Mark rose to be NZ First’s deputy leader in 2015 after he challenged Tracey Martin and got enough support in the caucus to roll her.

But the party’s deputy leadership is up for grabs again on Tuesday and it’s understood the job is NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau’s – if he wants it.

Tabuteau was fourth on the NZ First list last election, behind Peters, Mark and Martin (Jones was 8th).

Mark need not worry about Martin, whose popularity amongst colleagues exceeds his, as it’s understood she’s not interested in the job due to her heavy ministerial workload.

NZ First new-comer but old-timer in terms of political experience, Shane Jones, has long been touted to take over the leadership from Winston Peters if he ever decided to throw it all in and head to Whananaki to retire.

But he’s not interested in the job either – he says he’s got one billion trees to plant and a $1 billion regional economic fund to spend, which would keep him far too busy for anything else.

So it looks like a contest between Mark and Tabuteau, if Mark doesn’t read the writing on the wall and say he’s too busy being a minister.

While he (Jones) says it’s not a “priority” for him to be deputy leader and in the short term he has a “hell of a role” he possibly also doesn’t see the deputy job as any sort of assumed stepping stone to the leadership.


Peters reconfirmed leader, NZ First deputy going to a vote

Winston Peters has been reconfirmed as NZ First leader – no one should be surprised by that – but the party’s MPs will vote for a deputy next week. Ron Mark is currently the deputy.

NZH:  NZ First leader Winston Peters re-elected, deputy vote next week

NZ First has joined the fray of leadership elections, although the only vote in its caucus will be for deputy leader.

In a statement, NZ First said leader Winston Peters had been confirmed as the party’s leader at caucus.

“His sole nomination was carried with acclaim.”

Shane Jones, often tipped as a successor to Peters, would not comment but is unlikely to contest it.

They don’t say why Jones is unlikely to contest.

None of the MPs would comment – but possible contenders include current deputy Ron Mark, Tracey Martin and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Martin was deputy from 2011 to 2015 when caucus elected Ron Mark instead.

With both Peters and Mark now ministers with jobs that involve overseas travel (Foreign Affairs and Defence) it would make sense to have a more New Zealand based deputy. I don’t think Mark is particularly popular either.

Pressure now on Ardern

Now that whoever wanted Annette King dumped as deputy and retiring soon, and who engineered the elevation of Jacinda Ardern, has achieved their goal the pressure goes on Ardern to perform.

Ardern stood once unsuccessfully in Waikato in 2008 but got in on Labour’s list. Since then she has stood in the Auckland Central electorate and failed to win back what had long been a fairly safe Labour seat. She got into Parliament placed at 6 on Labour’s list in 2014.

She stood as Grant Robertson’s deputy in the Labour leadership contest in 2014 after David Cunliffe stood down, but they were defeated by Andrew Little.

This year she moved sideways to Mt Albert after David Shearer resigned. This is a safer Labour seat long held by Warren Freer (1947-1981), Helen Clark (1981-2009) and Shearer (2009-2016). She won easily, but this was more a winning political manoeuvre than a democratic mandate.

Ardern has been groomed, and has now been anointed as new deputy by Andrew Little, the exiting Annette and other MPs, so it looks like she will be voted into the position unopposed  next Tuesday.

Ardern has been Labour spokesperson in quite a variety roles. She is currently spokesperson for Justice, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Children, and Small Business
Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues.

She hasn’t exactly made an impact with those portfolios. The Latest from Jacinda Ardern:

Despite her multiple roles she doesn’t look like much of a multi tasker, but I guess she had a by-election to win.

She has stated an ambition to remain spokesperson for Children and says she has no ambition to take over King’s challenging Health role.

Media have talked Ardern up as an essential to lifting Labour out of the polling doldrums, and critical to their chances of forming the next government.

Labour have been polling mainly in the 25-30% range for some time and really need to lift that by at least 10% to look like a credible lead party.

So for the first time in her political career the pressure is really going to apply to Ardern.

She needs to establish herself in the newly won Mt Albert electorate. At the same time she has to take over as deputy and establish herself there. And she may have to come to grips with some different speaking roles for Labour as Little will need to do a rearrangement of responsibilities.

And Ardern also has to try to live up to her billing as the poster girl for a supposedly refreshed Labour Party.

Her image makers and some of the media have put Ardern on a personality based  pedestal. She has been groomed as a celebrity politician, with fairly modest political achievements on her CV.

Now Ardern has been put up there she has to step up and actually perform.

But not too well. The supposed aim is for Ardern to complement Little’s leadership without overshadowing it.

Not only does she have to play a balancing act, she also has to hope that the media don’t ignore Little and laud over her too much. Having won their support she may not be able to control how far they try to take her glam.

This of course assumes the plan is for Ardern to remain deputy to Little. She keeps emphatically saying she doesn’t want to be leader, but she had also said she had no ambition to be deputy.

She has also said she will do what is asked of her and what is deemed to be best for the Labour Party.

What if those pulling Labour’s strings want to elevate her even more? Will she just smile and step up again?

But for now she is going to become Labour’s deputy. She has to live up to her billing, or Labour will see another ‘game changer’ flop.

How will Little and Ardern and Turei and Shaw look to voters as a combo, with Winston Peters lurking in the shadows?

The pressure will be on Ardern to play her part – as supporting actor only.

That’s something we will find out over the next six months.


King abdicates, Princess Jacinda in waiting

So after the media ran a campaign of deputy replacement, and after denials from Andrew Little that there was any change afoot and there was no vacancy, and from Jacinda Ardern a number of times that she had no ambition or plans to be deputy, and after Annette King was adamant she was not moving, they have all miraculously changed tunes in unison today.

King has thought things through and will now stand down as deputy, and won’t seek re-election in September. She will leave a big hole in Labour ranks.

The new deputy won’t be appointed until a caucus meeting next week but Little quickly annointed Ardern and Ardern quickly looked gratefully anointed. There is virtually no chance of her being challenged by another MP.

This all looks quite messy but the manipulators have got their way as Labour’s regeneration plan continues to unfold.

Media is generally enthralled with the princess in waiting, saying she is just what Labour needs to pick up support, especially from younger voters.

We shall see in a month or three whether the latest game changer changes anything substantial.

One potential problem has been well pointed out – what happens if Ardern steals media oxygen from Little? There are signs of that already.

What if Ardern jumps from her latesr 4% in preferred ‘Prime Minister’ and leapfrogs Little’s 7%? That could be awkward, I doubt that Ardern is in the leadership plans for now.

An interesting election lead up just got a bit more interesting – which is of couyrse what the media wanted, they dreaded boring Bill and drab Andy thrashing out the election.

Expect them to start spotlighting and comparing the deputies Ardern and Paula Bennett now.

Celebrity elections are the thing these days. Who cares about doddery old democracy?

Ardern lipstick on a Labour pig?

The media and pundit obsession with trying to pressure Labour into promoting Jacinda Ardern to deputy leader continued yesterday.

This is despite the reality that most people don’t know who deputy leaders are and don’t care.

It seems to be a sign of the growing obsession with promoting celebrity politics – Ardern is better known for her cultivating of the celebrity circuit than for her political accomplishments.

Sure she won the Mt Albert by-election, but that was in a safe Labour seat against no opposition, and having moved there after three failed attempts to win in two other electorates.

Last week Bryce Edwards virtually demanded a deputy leadership change this week if Ardern won in Mt Albert.

He followed up yesterday with a round up of old and new items from activists (who \used to be journalists) and pundits promoting his agenda – Political Roundup: How long can it be before Labour elevate Jacinda Ardern to deputy?

Edwards included just one alternate view:

One commentator disputes the need to make Ardern the deputy. Russell Brown sarcastically says “of course what Labour needs in election year is yet another leadership shakeup” – see: Mt Albert: Cooperating, competing and carpooling.

I posted King of the deputy castle, media dirty rascals yesterday morning but that was probably a bit too critical of his activism to rate a mention. There has been more media activism to promote Ardern into the deputy headlines.

This is all more a symptom of journalists and pundits who want to be political players and movers and shakers rather than being reporters and analysts.

Annette King seems to have quietly done a good job holding the Labour caucus together and protecting Andrew Little’s back. As a deputy is supposed to do. It doesn’t make sense to throw a spanner in the works there with six months until the election.

Ardern has a new job to do in Auckland, she needs to establish herself in an electorate for the first time, and also needs to prepare herself for the election.

It makes no sense to me to give her another new job which will tie her more to Wellington and bury her in the party machine.

And I’m sure Little doesn’t want a deputy who attracts all the media attention.

Who cares who is deputy leader of Labour? I think that most voters don’t give a toss. Those that do can read about Ardern in the Woman’s Weekly.

And perhaps some journalists could consider whether they are political reporters, or activists promoting their pet politicians.

And – would Ardern lipstick really help a Labour Party pig?

Not quite PM but English speaks

The National Party has now elected Bill English  their next leader and Paula Bennett as deputy. They will be sworn in this afternoon, but English has just given a press conference.

Some snippets from Twitter.

Excited and humbled to be elected the new Leader of the with as Deputy Leader.


Bill English, in 1st comments as Nat leader, says he would likely vote for same sex marriage now.

Bill English won’t be moving into Premier House

Bill English says he won’t pledge to resign if the age for superannuation is raised, unlike John Key

“I have still yet to be sworn in as Prime Minister but thank you for your confidence” – English on whether staying on past 2020.

English says he will deal in the new year with the election date but will not be driven by Labour’s internal problems.

English asked about whether Key will get a knighthood – “well it’s not like he’s never asked.”

“Yes we do want it to go ahead and we will just find a way” – Bill English on Kermadecs

English says when he worked with Winston Peters in the past it was ‘challenging’.

“If NZ First is their to assist us, we are happy to have their support. That’s how the relationship works.”

English signals he is unlikely to take a portfolio a la Key and tourism.

English won’t make same pledge as Key to resign if super age raised, signals he’s open to policy review.

English on social issues: against abortion and euthanasia but would vote differently on gay marriage as doesn’t erode traditional marriage.


PM English, deputy Bennett

Simon Bridges has withdrawn from the contest to be deputy Prime Minister, leaving the second top spot to Paula Bennett.

Herald: Simon Bridges withdraws from deputy prime minister race

Bridges confirmed he was stepping out of the race at a press conference in Auckland this morning.

“While my numbers were good, they weren’t good enough.”

He said he had a third of the votes, but he didn’t have half.

Bridges said Bennett was a “massive talent” with huge strengths who would make an excellent deputy.

“I know that Bill English and Paula Bennett are going to do a fantastic job.”

Bridges spoke to Bill English this morning and discussed his withdrawal.

He was pleased to have been in the race and that there was a real contest.

So next week we will have Prime Minister Bill English and Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett.

It will give the government a bit of a new look at least.



Bridges versus Bennett continued

The current state of the race to the deputy prime ministership as recorded by Claire Trevett:


More at the Herald:

Paula Bennett is on the cusp of becoming Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, but may have to lobby for a few more votes over the weekend to secure the job.

Based on publicly declared votes, Bennett has 23 National MPs on her side, though numbers are changing often. Simon Bridges trails behind, having secured the support of 10 MPs. A candidates needs 30 votes to become deputy to Prime Minister-in-waiting Bill English.

If no clear winner between her and Bridges is found by Monday – when a caucus vote will be held – it is understood both candidates will give speeches to the party before a private ballot takes place.


Little, King and Wellington

Andrew Little had to rush an announcement that Annette King will remain as duputy leader despite saying when he became leader that her appointment will be for one year only.

It started with a bit of disarray.

Andrew Little botched the announcement of his deputy. Gave it to a journo over coffee, then coms team scrambled together a press conference.

The conference followed this report on Stuff: Labour leader sticking with Annette King for deputy

Labour leader Andrew Little says rising star Jacinda Ardern didn’t want the deputy leadership.

This comes after he confirmed on Wednesday veteran MP Annette King will stay in the role through to the next election in 2017.

“[Jacinda] hasn’t sought the role. The nature of the role means there’s a lot of back office stuff that has to be done. Jacinda’s strength is of course her outreach and getting out there, especially in Auckland, where I need her to be the most active,” Little said.

From Geneva, where King is leading a New Zealand delegation at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, she said she was “very happy to do whatever Andrew and the caucus want and happy to carry on in the role”.

This isn’t surprising. Ardern doesn’t look like solid deputy material, lacking in experience and in Caucus gravitas.

King looks to be about the only Labour MP capable of doing a good job as deputy.

But this creates a problem for Little and Labour. Little also announced that Grant Robertson would remain spokesperson on Finance.

So the top three Labour MPs remain as:

  1. Andrew Little (Wellington)
  2. Annette King (Wellington)
  3. Grant Robertson (Wellington)

Ardern has to be bumped up to 4 to give some sort of a nod to youth and to Auckland. Nanaia Mahuta is currently at four but she is virtually anonymous so has to drop down.

So next currently:

  1. Nanaia Mahuta (Waikato)
  2. Phil Twyford (Auckland)
  3. Chris Hipkins (Wellington)
  4. Carmel Sepuloni (Auckland)
  5. Kelvin Davis (Northland)
  6. Jacinda Ardern (Auckland)
  7. David Clark (Dunedin)

So that balances things a bit down the order but still Wellington 4 and Auckland 3 plus 2 from well up the North Island.

The first from the South Island is Clark at 10 and he has hardly been prominent (neither have most of the others).

But the biggest imbalance is four of ten Wellington MPS that are top heavy on the line up.

Little versus Ardern misses the mark

The Herald editorial today looks at Labour leadership  and co-leadership options. In particular they promote Jacinda Ardern as a deputy, and as a potential leader in waiting.

Little facing dilemma over deputy choice

Labour’s leader, Andrew Little, faces a dilemma over what sort of deputy he needs. Probably he would be happy to retain the party’s present deputy, Annette King, but he said a year ago the position would be re-opened about now.

Ms King has been excellent in the role – loyal, experienced, sensible in public statements, liked and respected by friend and foe, a safe pair of hands. That is all any leader would want in the person who must stand in for him at times and back him up when necessary.

And King would be excellent in the role for the next couple of years. I don’t think anyone else in the Labour caucus comes close to her mana and reliability.

But whether Mr Little likes it or not, there is much interest in the possible promotion of Jacinda Ardern. She is young, presentable and appears to have a popular following. A political party in Labour’s predicament cannot afford to let her appeal go to waste.

The party is a year into a third term of opposition and the polls are not yet giving any sign that a change of government is on the cards at the next election.

Labour needs to project the image of a fresh, new potential government.

The editorial concludes:

In politics there are loyal, safe, non-threatening deputies and there are ambitious deputies, using the post as a step to the top job. Parties in government need the first kind, but in opposition they sometimes need the second.

In Jacinda Ardern, Labour would appear to have a potential deputy who would not press for higher office unless the party needed a new leader, and could step up if it did. Labour needs her.

This misses the most pertinent point. Andrew Little was selected as leader last year. Little needs to step up. Overshadowing him with Ardern wouldn’t help him. Deputies should be effective and largely out of the spotlight, Ardern and her promoters have an attraction to the spotlight.

Little and his management team have made mistakes. Some of them are significant mistakes, like their fluttering over the flag fiasco, and their awful positioning and handling of the TPP Agreement being reached.

I think Little is at a political crossroads. He seems to be heading down a very rocky track right now.

If he can learn from his mistakes and learn from the stupidity of his advisers and take drastic action to turn things around then he has time to get on track to at least make a credible attempt at the 2017 election.

David Shearer got sucked into the Labour party machine and never fought out and rose above that.

Little needs to recognise the problems and fix them – fast. Otherwise Labour are in trouble – as if they haven’t had enough trouble recovering from the Clark years.

Ardern may make good copy for the Herald but she is not Labour’s answer as deputy and she is certainly not Labour’s answer as a replacement for Little at the top.

Promoting Little versus Ardern misses the mark. Little needs to promote himself as a competent leader. That will take a major change to achieve but Labour needs it to happen – they need to allow it to happen.