Earlier today, my attention was directed to an entry that’s just recently appeared on the Slightly Left of Centre blog.
It purports to contain the ‘inside word’ from a highly placed NZF source – which is funny, because I’m pretty sure the person in question found themselves wheeled out of our Parliamentary Office many months ago after a kerfuffle featuring a decidedly non-Lenninist style of “Vanguard” party that put his lone star into freefall.
The same individual has been observed madly flitting about the politisphere for much of the previous two years, attempting to play some thrice-interminable game of god-chess with New Zealand First’s future prospects for his own ends, and the ends of those connected to him.
I’d previously witnessed the gent in question attempt to breathlessly convince an array of commentators and players that Shane Jones as Winston’s designated successor was an iron-clad stroke of genius sure to shortly transpire. Then, through catspaws, they attempted to propel John Tamihere for NZF into the minds of many. Bomber even reported on it, and I believe one of our more recent social media spats was driven by exactly that issue.
The common theme here should be obvious to the more than casual observer: ex-Labour kiddie attempts to muscle in on the future of NZF by deploying his connections in a mad-cap bid to seize command of the still-being-written chapters of NZF’s future narrative. Then bolt yourself surgically to the coat-tail once it takes off, and try to steer/capitalize upon the presumptive self-fulfilling prophecy for the sake of your own career and to support your new chosen champion as he angles for our top job. Our friend’s evidently run out of Labour contacts now, after an embarrassing series of events that started with a job offer from David Cunliffe … so it would appear he’s changed tac when it comes to the idea of an ex-Labourite takeover of NZF accordingly, and is now trying to pour cold water on the idea.
I guess I’m also laughing because he’s evidently retreated a little in stature from talking to the NBR to “word in your ear”‘ing a relatively more minor beltway blogger. Perhaps it’s because the mainstream media and Parliamentary Press Gallery no longer takes his breathless allegations seriously after that incident with the backfiring allegations about Brendan Horan’s CV.
Anyway. It’s not my job, and considerably above my pay-grade, to try and sketch out in any sort of detail the factional intricacies of life behind the curtain in NZ First. Besides, the whole damn thing’s such a sargasso shoal sea that it’s near-constantly shifting in orientation and connectivity to the point that even *I’m* never quite sure who my friends are going to be and who’s going to be screaming at me down a phone-line from one week to the next.
But as cannot have escaped the notice of just about *anyone* who even pays *vague* attention to the Beltway and its contrivances … there is a bit of a moment of strategic potentiality going on inside NZF at present – a gap in the momentum wherein a new rhythm has a chance to develop.
I am, of course, referring to the growing whispers about some sort of “leadership transition” in our camp that began to get seriously out of hand pretty much the moment we got back into Parliament in late 2011.
Back then, the narrative for exterior purposes went that Winston would be around for the forseeable future; but had a vision for an NZF post-him that manifested as Winston being able to sit down to watch the 6 pmnews and see the next Leader of NZF giving a speech. Behind the scenes, however, a few back-room boys with buggerall empathy or depth of feeling for the Party (because they’re from the Parliamentary side of things rather than the Party, and view this all as a meal-ticket and an opportunity for personal advancement rather than something to pour your passion and the fabric of your very being into, I’m guessing) were pressing for a different trajectory: Winston not putting any effort in to developing an organic and in-house succession plan, and instead pouring his energy into securing a Ministerial bauble off the National-led government so as to execute one last hurrah before being ferried by a Crown limousine off into the sunset and leaving our Party to die.
Needless to say, this is not the Winston I know; and to be frank, there’s assumedly something interesting in the fact that the chief proponent of this “strategy” (such as it was) has since left us for purple-er and more pixellated pastures while heeding an altogether different Call of Duty. On the Internet.
Developments in the narrative subsequent to this basically manifested as Tracey Martin and Andrew Williams going head to head for the Deputy Leadership. There’s some very interesting stories circulating about how the vote for Deputy Leader went down, but suffice to say Tracey won; and less than a year later Andrew Williams found himself unceremoniously dumped down the list to a nigh unwinnable position. Meanwhile, a mysterious source conveniently made a number of list rankings (including that of new leadership rival Ron Mark) appear in the media many days before the final list was actually announced, with the apparent goal of provoking a journalistic feeding frenzy that would finish one or both of Mark and Williams.
Now, alongside this, the whispers from various subtle sources *before* the election were stating a potential plan of Winston resigning from Leadership of the Party about 18 months into this term, then allowing a putative future leader (whom everyone had been assuming would be Tracey) to take over while Winston stayed on as a Singaporean style “Minister Mentor” (or, if you prefer, Queen Mother).
A number of things have since happened that appear to make this plan rather less likely than it already was to be implemented. I won’t go into what these are (although some of them are amusing); but suffice to say Winston now appears to be giving very, very real consideration to staying on through 2017, and possibly even beyond.
Which, of course, presents a bit of a problem if you’re somebody who has tethered their wagon to a leadership contender who’s not Tracey … but who doesn’t stand to gain very much, either, if Winston continues in the top job.
This explains what was said to Slightly Left Of Centre these past 24 hours. The gentleman (to use a term loosely) providing the “exclusive” (hope any quotes were provided pre-transcriped to two-ply for re-use as nature intended) is trying to *further drive* the same line of thought that we squashed internally a year ago: that i) Winston IS the Party; and ii) that neither prospect this person deems threatening (a Tracey-lead NZF or a disaffected Labourite takeover) for an *actual* post-Winston future for NZF is in reality viable.
Now personally, I don’t hugely rate the chances of a band of errant Labour MPs upping sticks and walking on over to New Zealand First at some point in the next year and a half as being especially likely. We’d be viewed as far too fraught a prospect for Labour list MPs desirous of a less up-in-the-air seat-ticket; while any successful Labour electorate MP would be more likely to try and extract substantial concessions from Labour rather than attempting to bring their seat and majority with them to pastures blacker.
But that ain’t the point. What IS, is the fact that there’s some shadowy self-appointed operative running around Wellington trying to hobble NZF’s future by making it look like we lack one. Whether they’re doing this because they want to clear the decks for their own chosen champion to have a free run at the Leadership of NZF; or because they’re still acting on orders from inside Labour to try and bring us down from within (funny story, that) … it’s kinda telling that this particular person’s favourite saying was, reportedly, “You’ve got to be close to the King to stab him”.
I would respectfully contend that this is *exactly* what’s been attempted here.
I’m rather more fond of a different quotation, however … it’s from The Wire, and it goes along the lines of “You come at the King – you best not miss”.
To the “anonymous” guttersnipe attempted saboteur of our future: You’ve missed … and YOU won’t be 😉