Vic Crone’s campaign launch was a wild bacchanal of potentially dodgy drink gifting and sober transport spending promises. Hayden Donnell went along to embrace the chaos.
Her campaign launch had barely begun and Vic Crone was already dancing on the edge of the law. The mayoral candidate was giving away free drinks to everyone who set foot in the Carrington Pumphouse bar. Champagne to Michelle Boag. Bubbles for Bill Ralston. Booze to Maggie Barry. The drink rich giving to the drink poor. It was alcoholic socialism in action.
But was it legal? Graeme Edgeler, a lawyer and professional party assassin, told me Renegade Vic could be guilty of “treating”: an offence under the Local Electoral Act which is punishable by two years in prison, despite sounding more like a nice thing to do than a criminal offence.
“Even if proving that corrupt intention was difficult, it is monumentally stupid for a candidate to offer a complimentary drink at a campaign launch,” he wrote in a Twitter DM.
Monumentally stupid? More like monumentally fucken awesome. Phil Goff’s campaign launch was reportedly an abstemious affair. Guests allegedly wore goat hair shirts and chanted the names of their sins. Crone seemed to be risking it all so a gabble of free marketeers could get liquored up while they swayed to the DJ skills of Huffer supremo Steve Dunstan. She was the outlaw of Unitec, doling out drinks to the rich and extremely rich alike, two middle fingers raised in the direction of the lawman, telling him to catch a driverless Uber all the way to hell.
Her campaign later clarified that campaign launches are “apparently” exempt from treating rules. Edgeler said that’s not true. But they could argue the launch was invitation only, and filled with pre-existing supporters, he said.
Good enough for me. I snaked a free sausage roll in potential contravention of the Act – and widely accepted journalism ethics – and scoffed it while mentally making the devil horns. As far as I was concerned, Crone should roam free, far away from the political gaol. Let’s hope the ashen-faced greybeards at the Department of Internal Affairs feel the same.
Speaking of greybeards, Cronefest 2016 was filled with distinguished members of the National Party.
But none of the grandees turned out. No Key. Zero English. Nary a Joyce.
Auckland MP Nikki Kaye was left to hold the fort. She roped Crone and councillor Denise Krum into a huddle, and kept talking until the media started filming.
It was a solid electoral signal. I asked later whether the talk was tactical. Kaye replied: “Imagine you’ve been swimming every day for seven years. You get used to the water.”
There were speeches.
Alfred Ngaro kicked things off, telling the compelling origin story of his support for Mayor Vic. “There was this chick called Vic who was interested in being the mayor of Auckland,” he said.
Krum gave a rousing address. “I sit around the council table now and there is no inspiration and there is no aspiration,” she said, in a vicious and popular self-own.
Xero tech lord Rod Drury appeared in a video. There were tech issues.
Mark Mitchell, the MC and Rodney MP, riffed awkwardly as we waited for the speakers to start working. “He was going to say that since Vic left the share price has gone through the floor and is there any way he can get her back,” he joked.
Ralston was a highlight, using his speech to mercilessly berate his former schoolmate, Goff.
“Good man. Never had a job in his life,” he zinged. The crowd roared. Ralston carried on. “He is a retread former Labour leader looking for a retirement job. Are we gonna give it to him?” “No,” the rabble screamed.
Ralston swaggered off-stage and started talking to someone near me. “Well, Goff will never talk to me again,” he said, a little ruefully.
The mob was ready to glass Goff by the time Rebel Vic took the mic.
She promised to “put a bomb” under the wasteful council, criticising its horrible 15% support rating amongst Aucklanders. “I look at Brisbane which is a super city and I drool and I salivate,” she said. Brisbane City Council has 70% support.
And she slammed Goff. For being a politician.
For being tired. Old. Uninspiring.
For always wanting Government to pay for projects.
But the main event was her pledge to spend up to $750 million fast-tracking a second Harbour crossing, in an effort to entice the Government to pay for the project.
Afterward, she expertly batted off questions from the media.
Radio New Zealand’s Todd Niall called her announcement a flip-flop because of something she’d said in Milford ten days earlier. She said it wasn’t. The Herald’s Bernard Orsman asked whether she supports the CRL, for some reason. By that stage, I was barely clinging to my will to live.
I wandered inside. All the National ministers were gone. A few hangers-on mingled, drinking Wild Buck and eating free squid.
The band belted out Simply the Best to a backing track as the crowd dribbled away.