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PoliticsAugust 23, 2016

Live blog: Don Brash, David Rankin, and a man ‘on P’ wielding a sword


We have been waiting for a dramatic political event to live blog, and the unraveling events of yesterday’s ghastly meeting of local politics and a ceremonial sword fit the bill.

8.45am: As politics editor of the reality-television-and-housing-issues-focused New Zealand website The Spinoff, I have been waiting for an opportunity to launch a live blog. Preferably something involving drugs, violence and political household names. Then, on the bus this morning, this:


And the sky lit up.

8.55am: Here’s the edge-of-the-seat David Rankin statement, which denounces the soldiers of the fourth estate as “cowardly” in full:

Former National Party leader and Council Candidate hold off “P” sword attacker in West Auckland as TV One news crew flees.

On Monday 22 August, former National Party leader, Dr Don Brash, joined the campaign launch for West Auckland Council candidate David Rankin in Great North Road in Glendene.

TV One News and Te Karere were present but abruptly cut their interviews short when a man got out of his car nearby and approached the group wielding a large sword.

As the reporters and cameraman fled, Mr Rankin and Dr Brash remained, and Mr Rankin attempted to calm the man down. The sword-wielding man also had a child with him.

“My main concern was for that young boy. His father was obviously high on ‘P’ and was a real threat to his safety. He was ranting hysterically and threatening us with his sword.” While Mr Rankin tried to calm the man, one of his supporters called the Police and gave a detailed description of the offender and his vehicle.

Mr Rankin will be laying a complaint with TV One’s management over the actions of its staff. “Our team were surprised at the cowardly behaviour of the reporters. We were at risk of being seriously assaulted, or worse, and this man’s child was in extreme danger, but the reporters just fled the scene.”

Mr Rankin will be approaching TV One management today asking for a full investigation.

9.05am: By way of background, you should know that Ngapuhi leader David Rankin is standing for Auckland Council in Waitakere. Brash, whose CV includes leadership of the Reserve Bank, the National Party and the ACT Party, is supporting Rankin in large part because he wants rid of one of the incumbents in the ward, Penny Hulse, the deputy mayor, despite the fact – or because? – she was placed first in the recent agenda-setting Spinoff councillor power rankings.

9.20am: I’m going to come clean: all the posts below were written at the same time; I just wanted to give it that live blog feel, you know? From now on the time codes will be more accurate.

9.25am: Spare a thought for Fairfax reporter Jo Moir, who broke the story on Twitter, opening – inevitably, when you think about it – the lid on a torrent of pictures of Brash topless.

moir2 moir3

9.30am: Stuff has chosen to illustrate its story on the sword-wielding story with a picture of David Rankin holding an axe.


Stuff also have this from the Police: “A police spokeswoman confirmed they had received a call about a man ‘yelling and waiving’ a sword about 1.30pm. When they arrived the man was gone but his car was later located. A low-speed chase ensued and police drove alongside the man, who still had his child in the car, pleading for him to stop. He eventually did and was detained.”

Just when you thought the story had everything, you get a low-speed chase.

Actually the bit about the kid being with the man is pretty horrible. Might stop doing this live blog.

9.35am: A tweet from Penny Hulse:


9.45am: Another tweet from Hulse:


10.00am: Don Brash spoke with RNZ Morning Report earlier. “It was quite the most unusual experience I’ve ever seen.”

10.15am: The versions of events from Brash and Rankin appear to differ a bit.

Rankin (quoted in release): “His father was obviously high on ‘P’ and was a real threat to his safety. He was ranting hysterically and threatening us with his sword … We were at risk of being seriously assaulted.”

Brash (in RNZ interview, see previous post): “It was hard to tell if he was under the influence of something … He didn’t look as though he was going to attack anyone with the sword. He was just waving it about.”

Rankin (according to release): “While Mr Rankin tried to calm the man, one of his supporters called the Police and gave a detailed description of the offender and his vehicle.”

Brash: “We didn’t call the Police, as far as I know … Everyone decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we all moved away and got into the vehicles and left.”

(Brash did confirm, however, that Rankin had “tried to remonstrate” with the man.)

10.25am: Loyal Spinoff contributor Don Brash has just replied to my email. He says, in part:

“The driver wound down the passenger-side and started to try to engage David Rankin in conversation.  David tried to continue with the interview, so the guy parked his car and came towards the interview carrying a very large sword (one metre long roughly).  He was talking quite incoherently and was either seriously mentally ill or on some kind of drug.  He didn’t actually threaten anybody with the sword, and I couldn’t even tell if it was a real sword or a theatre prop.  But after David tried to calm the guy, without much success, the TV crew, David and I all decided it was time to quietly leave.

On the surface, this (my emphasis) contradicts the following claim in Rankin’s press release: “As the reporters and cameraman fled, Mr Rankin and Dr Brash remained…”

The Spinoff is seeking clarification.

10.40am: A man sitting literally three metres away from me has sent an email. Hayden Donnell writes:

Hi, Hayden here. Just wanted to stop in to dispute David Rankin’s claim that it’s cowardly to run away from a man with an “enormous” sword. It is not cowardly to run away from a man with an “enormous” sword. It is prudent and advisable.
If you are confronted by a man with an “enormous sword, The Spinoff Editorial Board’s official advice is to exercise extreme caution. Your actions can include, but are not limited to.
1. Screaming
2. Praying
3. Running
4. Regretting many of your life choices.
5. Bitterly remembering where it all went wrong.
6. Screaming again
7. Asking survivors to tell your loved ones that you love them
It is so ruled

Truth to power, and not for the first time.

11.05am: Hayden here again. Toby Manhire is currently on the phone with Professor Paul Moon, who reportedly witnessed the enormous sword incident.

11.20am: What are you doing in my live blog, Hayden? I was going to set that up properly and now it’s ruined.

11.25am: Sorry about before. What I was going to say is: Asked to clarify on the question of leaving together vs the TV people fleeing in a cowardly fashion, Don Brash says, “My choice of words may have been a bit casual. The TV crew did leave; David tried to calm the guy; and then he and I (and one other guy who was also present, Dr Paul Moon of AUT) also left.”

He adds that he now understands the Police were called. But, Paul Moon, historian! There’s a man who will be able to set the record straight. Bear with me.

11.30am: This just in.


11.45am: Paul Moon! He’s just told me he was indeed at the Rankin launch yesterday with the candidate and Brash. He’s not Team Rankin, but Rankin “asked me to turn up”, and he did.

The man initially approached the three of them, “saying he was the Archangel Gabriel and we shouldn’t walk on the grass. He had bloodshot eyes and was getting hysterical.” He then walked back to his car, returning with a sword, which originally appeared to be a novelty item, but, it became clear as he banged it on the ground, was “solid steel”.

Rankin attempted to calm the man, placing his hand on his shoulder, but to no avail, and the man “was getting more and more agitated”. But he “eventually left and jumped in his car”.

But what of these fleeing television cowards? They may have left earlier, says Professor Moon, “but I don’t know if it’s a case of cowardice so much as the interview was over.”

Did the man seem to know who Brash and Rankin were? “I don’t think he even knew who he was.”

Moon also points out, very reasonably, that “it’s the most harrowing thing to think what that kid’s going through”.

11.55am: Rankin’s claims have been called “incorrect and infammatory” by TVNZ’s news boss. Here’s the statement from John Gillespie, in full:

Our team are very surprised Mr Rankin’s version of events. The suggestion that there was danger and that the news team fled the event is incorrect and inflammatory.

On Monday, August 22nd, three TVNZ news staff were scheduled to do an interview with David Rankin and Don Brash concerning Mr Rankin’s council campaign launch on Great North Road, Glendene.

After filming Mr Rankin erecting hoardings and then conducting interviews for both One News and Te Karere, a man pulled up beside the group in a vehicle and asked directions to a local church. Our reporter told the man she didn’t know where this was. The man then parked his car and, accompanied by a boy aged about 7 or 8, approached the group carrying a large ceremonial sword.

Our team said the man was not waving the sword about nor did he appear to have any violent intent. The sword was pointed towards the ground. The boy with the man was smiling and appeared happy. Our cameraman had finished filming by this point and was packing up his gear. Our team said Mr Rankin approached the man, shook hands with him and spoke to him. Our team were by now in their car ready to leave. Dr Brash had left. Mr Rankin got into his car and as he was driving off, rolled down his window and spoke with the team. Our team were the last to leave.

Our team never felt in danger and nor were they concerned about the safety of anyone else. They saw no necessity at the time to call Police.

Mr Rankin made no contact with TVNZ yesterday afternoon, his press release this morning was the first we knew of his concerns.

So there you have it. Is David Rankin a brave victim or an inflammatory opportunist, or a bit of both?

Let me say simply this: The Spinoff commits right here and now to give extended live-blog coverage to each and every council candidate who finds themselves involved in a skirmish involving television crews and men who might be on P wielding ceremonial swords.

5.00pm: Thought that was a wrap, but turns out David “Power” Rankin is Not Done. The gravitational physics of argument demand, of course, that at some point you end up with an Open Letter, and Rankin has written one of those, to TVNZ’s Gillespie. Read it here if you must.

Meanwhile, here’s the lol du jour:


Keep going!