There were a lot of similarities between this year’s post-election NZ First media conference and the one from last election, but the circumstances couldn’t have been more different
After a post-election party which stretched past 2am the Infrastructure Minister and seemingly lifelong foe of the Greens stumbled into a new world where Chloe Swarbrick had won an electorate seat and his own party had been wiped out from Parliament.
Three years ago Winston Peters was the one standing in Jones’ shoes casually adjusting his cuffs as he spoke to reporters in a suit and a tie outside the Duke of Marlborough.
It was a very different election result then – where NZ First had been handed an opportunity to decide who would govern. Although the key message during both press conferences was oddly the same: wait and see.
“It was a harrowing night,” Jones, dressed in a baseball cap and t-shirt, told gathered reporters on Sunday morning.
“Let’s face it there was a red tsunami and the public obviously were tuned into the whole Covid korero, and the forces that are rightist – and I’m of a rightist beat as a politician – it was not a night for us.”
Winston Peters was nowhere to be seen in the Russell township on Sunday morning, but Jones had spoken to him on the phone and told reporters the NZ First leader would tell everyone what he thought of it all “when the time is right”.
“The howls of glee and delight that surround us at the moment – all of the Greens and the Reds – the weather will change.”
Peters, his partner Jan Trotman and some of the deputy Prime Minister’s staff did come down at midday to sit and have lunch. Chief of staff Jon Johansson came out to ask media to respect the NZ First leader’s privacy.
Despite the dark day for NZ First the weather in Russell couldn’t have been better: a cool breeze and a cloudless sky.
Then came the awkward questions. Like what Jones made of NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft – dramatically demoted down the list mid-campaign – reportedly attending the Labour election night party rather than the party’s own.
“Jenny is a private citizen and no longer a member of Parliament and what she does and how she does it. That’s up to her.”
And what of the party itself? Could it survive? Jones said if you asked any member of the Maori Party they would tell you how difficult it was to maintain a political party outside of Parliament for three years and then contest the next election.
“This is Sunday morning and let’s just accept the fact that people want to absorb the full impact of all of the votes with a clear mind and then chart a pathway forward.”
Before he left awaiting media to continue his life, for now at least, as a private citizen he made reference to the 1960s song Sad Movies (make me cry) as summing up his feelings about the election.
He said he had to work so I went to the show alone
They turned down the lights and turned the projector on
And just as the news of the world started to begin
I saw my darlin’ and my best friend walk in
Though I was sittin’ there they didn’t see
And so they sat right down in front of me
When he kissed her lips I almost died
And in the middle of the color cartoon I started to cry.
Oh-oh-oh sa-a-a-d movies always make me cry
Oh-oh-oh sa-a-a-d movies always make me cry.