|3rd Leader of Social Credit Party|
|Preceded by||P.H. Matthews|
|Succeeded by||John O'Brien|
|Member of the New Zealand Parliament
1966 – 1969
|Preceded by||Logan Sloane|
|Succeeded by||Logan Sloane|
30 May 1912|
|Died||4 June 1989
|Political party||Social Credit|
Vernon Francis Cracknell (30 May 1912 – 4 June 1989) was a New Zealand politician. He served as the Social Credit Party's third leader (1963–1970).
Cracknell was born in Auckland on 30 May 1912. Initially he made his living working as an accountant. Later, he became involved in politics through the Social Credit Party, a group dedicated to the social credit theory of monetary reform.
In the 1960 elections and 1963 elections, Cracknell contested the seat of Hobson in Northland. He placed second on both occasions, pushing the Labour Party candidate into third place, more successful than any other Social Credit candidate. The area had previously been receptive to social credit theory – the Social Credit Party had placed second in the 1954 elections, and Harold Rushworth of the credit-influenced Country Party had held the Northland seat (then called Bay of Islands) for three terms, from 1928 to 1938.
Member of Parliament
|Parliament of New Zealand|
In the 1966 election, Cracknell was finally successful, winning the seat with 48% of the vote. He narrowly defeated the incumbent MP, Logan Sloane of the National Party, who won 45% of the vote. Cracknell's victory was a surprise, as no candidate not aligned with either the Labour or National parties had been elected to Parliament since 1943.
However, Cracknell found himself unsuited to Parliamentary debate and did not make any substantial impact. He struggled to achieve an independent voice in Parliament, voting with Labour 22 times and with National 14 times in his first year. Cracknell was not particularly skilled at dealing with the media and so received little attention, thus undoing Social Credit's foot in the door in terms of political ascendancy. In the 1969 elections, Cracknell's campaign was almost universally regarded as poor, with his television appearance being described as uninteresting, too academic and rambling. Many observers cited growing internal divisions within the Social Credit Party as a cause of this by diverting the party's efforts and attention away from campaigning and policy platforms. The party dropped 5% in the polls and Cracknell likewise did worse in Hobson where Logan Sloane regained the seat by a substantial margin.
In 1970, a bitter dispute at the party's annual conference saw Cracknell lose the Social Credit Party's leadership to his deputy, the more confrontational John O'Brien. The 1970 conference was described as "the most vivid example of political bloodletting in public" since John A. Lee had been expelled at the 1940 Labour party conference. The culmination of which, a vote was held for the office of party president with a pro-Cracknell and Pro-O'Brien candidate. O'Brien's ally PJ Dempsy defeated Cracknell man AJ Gray 137 votes to 60. Seeing this as a sign of things to come, Cracknell smilingly asked the minutes clerk to remove his name from the leadership ballot. He resigned the leadership without a delegate vote leaving O'Brien to gain the leadership, without winning it.
Thereafter, Cracknell had little involvement in politics, and did not attempt to regain his seat again.