As part of getting to know the way local political parties operate other than Labour, I’ve been to a couple of NZ First conferences as well as several Green meetings of various types. But I also tolerated decades of reluctantly turning up at many Labour party meetings to gain an unfortunate level of familiarity with how large political meetings operate.
Most of what people talk about at political conferences and meetings is endearingly obvious, excessively long winded, and always time-wasting. Unfortunately it is often the only way to pick up crucial information. When I am bored at them which is most of the time, I watch people and the social patterns and posturing of people – a bad habit I seemed to have inherited from working in management. It is amusing especially when you can see the observed patterns popping up later in the public’s face.
Bearing in mind the public and even the political reputation of NZ First as being a one man band. I found it interesting that NZ First simply wasn’t. It is a real political party with the classic obstreperous and opinionated know-it-all members, strange and often rather frightening supporters, ambitious candidates and MPs, plus the usual interesting festering undercurrents of factionalism. In other words as internally complicated a coalition as you’d find in any reasonably large nationwide political party.
I’m not the only person to be surprised. Branko Marcetic writing at The Spinoff in “I joined NZ First and went to their conference to find out what they’re really up to”, which is a very long-form account of a few days at their last pre-election conference by a political party neophyte. It gives a clear sense of what the party tends to be like. It will be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a large political conference and is well worth reading.
Now this would be obvious and apparent if there was any free-form social media presence of the party online. But there really isn’t much and it seldom has been noticeable for being more than a few single individuals expressing their own views without much real discussion apart from the usual idiotic tory trolls. What there has been has been ‘interesting’ restrictions like the 2013 “NZ First shuts down social media pages“.
When Winston Peters says as he did last night, that he has to discuss what happens next and gives a barely veiled warning to members and MPs that they shouldn’t start chattering to journalists, then that is the reason. It is a political party and therefore the type of organisation which inherently leaks information like a sieve.
He and the rest of the controlling board of NZ First aren’t interested in having any blabbermouth talkers constraining their negotiating position before they agree on one. They need to figure out what they are going to do, then figure out how to make that and any resulting deal palatable to the people involved in or who voted for the party.
It’s tricky because this is the type of issue that shreds support and causes fracturing inside any organisation. And one thing that always comes across inside NZ First. These are people who want their party to last and survive. It isn’t a one-man band.