In what may be an unheard of event within NZ First, Winston Peters’ choice of deputy leader has been dumped. Tracey Martin has been voted out in favour of Ron Mark.
Both Martin and Mark are good contributors in Parliament, though Mark has far more experience, having served as an MP on and off since 1996. Presumably, Ron Mark is jockeying for position as Winston Peters enters the final stage of his leadership. Where this leaves the presumed heir apparent, Labour Party member Shane Jones, is anyone’s guess. But it’s astonishing that Winston’s control of the NZF caucus has been challenged in this way.
Previous leadership pretenders have been dealt with ruthlessly; Andrew Williams, for example, was given an unwinnable list position. Brendan Horan proved to be challenging to Winston and was unceremoniously flicked from the party, and, eventually, Parliament.
How this affects the future direction of NZ First is uncertain. While Winston is clearly more inclined to visit utu on National by helping Labour form the next Government, Mark may not be that worried about where the party ends up, as long as it’s in a position of power.
As one wit has said on twitter, ” The fighting for the NZ First deputy leadership is so fierce because the stakes are so low”.
But if there is to be a progressive Government in NZ this generation, NZ First has to be part of it. So for New Zealand, the stakes are actually pretty high. We know that Winston is sniffy about the Greens, but how does Ron Mark see them? And how closely does he want to work with Labour anyway?
One thing is certain. Any change in leadership within NZ First that doesn’t involve Shane Jones will be actually greeted with relief by the NZ Labour Party. They know full well that Jones will be only to happy to knife them in the back in a manner reminiscent of Winston’s reverse ferret in 1996. So the biggest loser may not be Tracey Martin, it may well be someone who’s not even an MP, or even a member of the party.