NZ On Screen's Nicky Harrop looks back on elections past with a selection of on-screen gaffes from our political archives.
Like many in the public eye, New Zealand's politicians, and their represented parties, have had some of their most memorable blunders captured on camera. Some hugely damaging, some surprisingly beneficial, we round up some of the more notorious below.
One of the most contentious political ads to emerge from New Zealand, the 'Dancing Cossacks' played only twice on local television, in the lead up to the 1975 election. Created for the National Party, the commercial's chief target was the governing Labour Party's compulsory superannuation scheme, implying that it would eventually turn New Zealand into a communist state. Though hugely controversial, the cossacks may well have played a part in National's ensuing landslide victory, with Rob Muldoon elected as Prime Minister.
See the Dancing Cossacks commercial here:
On June 14 1984, coming up on a nine-year run as PM, Muldoon, his slim majority in tatters, called a snap election on national television. Ignoring advice from within the National Party, he set the election date for one month's time, hoping to catch the opposition underprepared. It was widely suggested that Muldoon was drunk at the time, (and reporter Rob Neale can't resist a "high spirits" jibe), or perhaps he believed in his own invincibility. Either way, it was the beginning of the end for an era he had dominated. The gamble backfired and National suffered a heavy defeat.
See an excerpt from Eyewitness News - Snap Election Setup here:
In July 1985, New Zealand Party leader Bob Jones surprised many by announcing the nation's then third most popular party was taking an 18 month recess. Seeking comment, TVNZ chartered a helicopter and found Jones fishing near Turangi. Jones was not amused, infamously breaking reporter Rod Vaughan's nose (and punching cameraman Peter Mayo). Claiming harassment and backed by public opinion, Jones filed a court writ claiming $250,000 in damages. Later, after being fined $1000, he asked the judge if paying $2000 would allow him to do it again.
Watch Eyewitness News - Bob Jones punches reporter Rod Vaughan here:
In July 2002, the ruling Labour Party found themselves under pressure on the issue of Genetic Engineering. In a 3 News special, John Campbell, informed by Nicky Hager's yet-to-be-published book Seeds of Distrust, confronted Prime Minister Helen Clark over the suspected release of GE corn seed in 2000, alleging a cover up. Upset at what she perceived as an ambush, Clark reacted tersely; and later labelled Campbell a "sanctimonious little creep". With a general election looming, the encounter was swiftly dubbed 'Corngate'.
Watch the 3 News - 'Corngate' interview here:
The 2014 election saw the rise of the Internet Mana party, and a number of colourful media moments involving founder Kim Dotcom. The party launch was no exception, going somewhat awry when Dotcom fled from reporters keen to follow up a remark made during his speech (he had hinted he could hack then-Prime Minister John Key's credit rating). Internet Mana press secretary Pam Corkery infamously berated reporters over the incident, calling TV3's Brook Sabin a "puffed up little s**t."
Watch 3 News coverage of the event here:
Perhaps more bluster than blunder, earlier that year, Key had been interviewed by Paul Henry for the debut episode of his late night TV news show. Keeping the banter largely informal, Henry still managed to get in the odd jab, grilling Key on his feelings towards Peter Dunne and Winston Peters, and questioning the political wisdom of him having recently let son Max win a round of golf with then-US President Barack Obama.
See the interview here:
You can see more memorable moments from our political history here, in NZ On Screen's Politics Collection.