Why won’t Vic Crone debate anyone and why is her team strong-arming debate organisers?

Vic Crone

Not a good look for Vic Crone and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out who on her team is strong-arming organisers of debates.

Two Auckland mayoral candidates aren’t happy at being invited and then excluded from an election event being organised by a ratepayer-funded business group.

Mark Thomas and John Palino said they were invited to the South Harbour Business Association candidate event, but then removed from the line-up, leaving just Vic Crone and Phil Goff.

Mr Palino said he was invited by email to join a line-up including Phil Goff and Mark Thomas, but 20 minutes later received another email withdrawing the invitation.

Mr Thomas said he believed he’d been excluded after an objection from rival centre-right candidate Ms Crone.

Vic Crone can’t handle a debate. She will get shown up by the more politically educated Mark Thomas and the more passionate John Palino.

Crone’s team know they have the number 11 choice and dud candidate and are doing whatever they can to protect her from any head-to-head debates where she would get shown up for the corporate show pony she is.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out who is pulling the strings in the background; she has a history of this sort of standover.

The business lunch was organised by the South Harbour Business Association, which is funded entirely by a targeted rate and a grant from the Auckland Council.

Email exchanges obtained by RNZ News showed some of the on-again, off-again exchanges:

  • April 6 2.18pm: SHBA’s manager Alex Holley, confirms that Vic Crone and Phil Goff will attend.
  • April 21 12.27pm: SHBA writes to the Goff campaign – “Further to my email regarding Mark Thomas wanting to join, I have received a call from Victoria Crone’s representative saying Victoria will not appear with Phil and Mark.”
  • April 27 11.49am: SHBA invites mayoral candidate John Palino to present “alongside Phil Goff and Mark Thomas.”
  • April 27 12.05pm: SHBA emails John Palino (16 minutes later) “Please disregard my previous email as my request is now withdrawn.”

Mr Palino, who with almost 109,000 votes in 2013 was runner-up to Len Brown, said it was not a good performance from a ratepayer-funded group.

“They should actually give their members the opportunity to hear all the candidates’ policies and visions for Auckland, I think that’s important,” he said.

“To lock someone out or uninvite someone, which is a bit rude, just shows unprofessionalism.”

It isn’t the first time Crone’s team has done this. My understanding is Crone refused to attended a three-way debate on Duncan Garner’s show for the same reasons.

A spokesperson for Ms Crone said they had told the association only that they would prefer being paired just with Mr Goff.

Mr Thomas rejected Ms Crone’s public stance that it was a two-horse race.

“There’s clearly three leading candidates, most commentators are saying that, but it’s not up to us to declare ourselves as leading contenders, ultimately the voters will decide,” he said.

Crone is lying; the emails, which I have obtained as well, show a much different story.

The really important question is what is Vic Crone afraid of? I’d happily debate all comers, and on NewstalkZB when I was on the Huddle – before being blacklisted by management – I always said I’d go on with anyone. It is only cowards like Damien Christie and Tim Watkin who refused to be on air with me. Josie Pagani at least had the courage to do it, and for that she will always have my respect.

But Crone must be afraid of going toe to toe with John Palino and Mark Thomas. It isn’t the hallmark of a quality candidate to dictate terms for debates; it is the hallmark of a coward.

Then again, when you sign pledges but have no idea what you’ve signed up to, and have no policy despite six months on the campaign trail, then I guess you really wouldn’t want that exposed.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.