GUEST BLOG: Dr Liz Gordon – The revenge of the boys



So Tracey Martin has been rolled by that most blokey of male politicians, Ron Mark.  And truth be told, it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a woman to hold high office in New Zealand First. But Tracey is an unusually competent politician.  She is well-respected, in particular, in the education sector as someone who both understands the issues and has the capacity to make a difference.

Of course the loss of the deputy leadership will arguably giver her more time to pursue the education work.  Except that deputy leadership positions are generally about status and influence rather than workload.  This is literally a step down for her, and she must be bitterly disappointed, despite her press release congratulating Ron Mark today.

And because of that, this change can be seen as what it really is – the revenge of the boys.  Not since 1996, when Deb Morris and Robyn MacDonald were made ministers, thus displacing the more senior list-holders Ann Batten and Jenny (hell-hath-no-fury) Bloxham, has a woman made an impact at a leadership level in New Zealand First – until Tracey Martin.

Of course, the boys have an explanation for this apparent anomaly. Whenever Tracey Martin is in the media, it is brought up that her mother is party president.  The implication that Tracey is in Parliament as a result of nepotistic favour rather than competence lurks behind every story.  This is mischief at the highest levels.  There is no way that Tracey’s mum got Tracey into Parliament, let alone into the deputy leadership.

But the persistent rumours of nepotism allowed Tracey to hold a senior position without threatening the virility of the NZ First men.  It also sowed the seeds of her downfall, once the time was right.   New Zealand First has 12 MPs, nine of whom are men.  The men in New Zealand First are not feminists (to state the obvious).  NZ First has never gone after the women’s vote and has never got it.

The return of Ron Mark to Parliament last year provided both the impetus and the opportunity to set the NZ First world back on its blokey axis.  Ron, although never Deputy Leader before, had been a relatively prominent MP for years, and, in time served and his record, made a credible challenger to Tracey.

With a caucus of like-thinking fellows, it was presumably not hard for Ron to make the case about why he would make a better deputy leader than Tracey.   One would imagine that the need for a balanced leadership to attract support across the genders was not discussed in making that case.

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This week saw a rare blue moon.  Billie Holliday sang:

Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for
And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold

Which is a good enough metaphor for the Martin out, Mark in, week in NZ First.  Perhaps Tracey hopes that she will live to fight another day for the party leadership, possibly when Winston retires (if that every happens).  This week’s events should have revealed to her that the new day is unlikely to dawn for her.


Dr Liz Gordon is a former Labour & Alliance Party MP



  1. Nice to see that someone wrote a good article on this particular turn of events. I was very sad and disappointed to see this in the news. Not to long ago I saw Tracy on the tv show “Backbenchers”, not knowing who she was, I was sufficiently impressed by her to find out, and then I was impressed by New Zealand First to have her as their deputy leader. In other words, my estimation of New Zealand First went up. But again, in what I see as typical NZF behaviour it ‘s two steps forward, then one step back. For me Ron Marks as deputy leader is one step back, maybe even two.

  2. It will work out for her evetually, when Winston stands down, Ron can take over and she can be vice leader again!

  3. Martin also impressed me on backbenches. One would think its best to keep the MP’s that impress in front of the voters?

  4. Yes, many questions deserve to be asked.

    I see Tracey Martin as one of the more moderate, cross party agreement seeking NZ First members. Ron Marks is more of a hard-liner, who would possibly have less issues working with National, should NZ First ever be in a situation of King Maker again.

    But Tracey has at times come across a bit unprofessional, a bit unprepared and insecure as a deputy leader. I have observed her during Parliamentary sessions, and in question time she has not always been such a good performer.

    She can be good in debates, speaking on issues, and has passion, but to be deputy, I would have expected her to be more self assured and confident.

    Perhaps it is the male dominance in the NZ First caucus, that makes it extra hard for a woman to “survive” in such a role.

    I am no fan of Marks. He can be hard hitting, but his military background has made him a kind of character, of whom I do not wish to see too many in our political profession.

    Time will tell, what all this will mean for NZ First’s future.

    • If Tracey Martin is a bit unprofessional, then Ron Mark telling people to STFU and pulling the finger in Parliament is?

  5. No …I think its a bit simplistic to blame it on some inherent sexism .

    Lets not forget that many among Grey Power and those who are not support NZ First and are women.

    And we don’t know the full story being outsiders to the inner workings of NZ First. Also …the fact that two influential positions were filled by women for a long period as well..

    Coupled with that ….Ron Mark has actually proven himself time and again over the years. He does not strike me as a person who can easily be fooled with in the gutter politics we have nowadays.

    So perhaps there are other reasons besides some inherent sexism .

    Also…perhaps if Peters is to be retiring in the next few years ( hopefully not too soon ) we may see Tracey being that deputy leader …in which case its only a time factor . And then this speculation would be put to rest.

    I think those in NZ First are playing a credible game because they realise the political scene in NZ at the moment. This is not a time to be entertaining ‘ ism’s ‘…for political correctness sake’s…but a time for dead serious reckoning because of the sort of dangerous and corrupt current govt we have.

  6. It is refreshing when a politician don’t fit the mould, plays the game in unexpected ways or does things differently and so refreshes our perspectives.
    I am not sure what Ron Mark sought to achieve on TV3’s The Nation. He lacked the adeptness I expected and to me simply came out looking peculiar.
    A performance and appearance which left me with a feeling of “What’s that all about?”

  7. Ah, all semantics, do you not realise that Winston Peters has hidden in his attic a painting of himself, wizening with age while he continues on.
    Good luck to anyone wanting to take over from him, he is likely to live forever.

  8. While Tracey Martin always struck me as less eloquent than some of her fellow pollies, it seemed that she was someone who had gone into politics for the right reasons, and was trying to make a positive difference.
    Ron Mark, on the other hand, is bonkers. In the interview he did with Checkpoint a few days ago, he also came a cross as a self-serving slime. Good luck, NZF.

  9. Who NZ First want as their leaders is their business, but I remember how Ron Mark deserted the party when it seemed it was all over, only to worm his way back in when fortunes improved. He is really like Tau Henare, a macho man fairweather party member. When the going gets tough, the tough boys get going – somewhere else! Can you trust them when the chips are down?

  10. How good to see you back in the media Liz. I always used to enjoy your comments.

    And yes, once again you’ve got it pretty much spot on.

  11. The recent developments, and also the revelations by Curwen (in his recent post) have given me reason to think, NZ First is definitely not the kind of party I consider worth voting for.

    They all have their bizarre things happening, their schemers and string pullers, but it does not look good what has been going on there.

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