Should Winston front up over deputy?

Posted July 2, 2015

It was clear on Tuesday that something was happening in NZ First that appeared to be a deputy leadership challenge from Ron Mark. But when asked who the deputy leader was, Winston Peters told reporters he did not comment on Caucus issues.

This was a strange response, and raises an interesting point that leaders must confront when approached by media. That issue is ‘what should I hide from journalists?’

In our media training sessions, we always discuss this. My advice is always to tell them everything that you can. There will be some things you have to withhold, but always have a good reason to do so.

I’m not privy to NZ First Caucus meetings, but it seems fairly clear that Ron Mark wants the job. So they need to look at what damage would be done if they admitted that. I’d suggest they would have got far better coverage than has eventuated.

As Winston Peters now says, they have a vote on this after every Election. This has not happened earlier because of the Northland by-Election. So why can’t Ron Mark say he wants the job?

He could still respect Tracey Martin, but publicly say he wants the job. It would then look like a clean and honest challenge. Instead, it has all looked underhand and as if something devious has been covered up. Clearly, there is more to come from this story.

It does bring up a major question that all leaders must consider when facing the media. “What is the worst thing that can happen if I say that”? If the result would not be that bad, share the information. The best way to get a good story is to help the journalist as much as possible.

I’m not saying you should always share everything, but have a good reason to withhold it.

For more on my media training, contact [email protected]

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