Vernon Cracknell

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Vernon Cracknell
Vernon Cracknell.jpg
3rd Leader of Social Credit Party
In office
Deputy John O'Brien
Preceded by P.H. Matthews
Succeeded byJohn O'Brien
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Hobson
In office
26 November 1966 29 November 1969
Preceded by Logan Sloane
Succeeded byLogan Sloane
Personal details
Born(1912-05-30)30 May 1912
Auckland, New Zealand
Died4 June 1989(1989-06-04) (aged 77)
Kawakawa, New Zealand
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).


Early life

Cracknell was born in Auckland on 30 May 1912. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School and Kings College before qualifying as an accountant. In 1934 he left Auckland and moved to Northland and later married in 1949. He established his own accountancy firm in Kerikeri in 1951. [1]

Later, he became involved in politics through the Social Credit Party, a group dedicated to the social credit theory of monetary reform. He made his entry into politics in local government in 1950 when he was elected a member of the Bay of Islands Harbour Board and became the board's chairman in 1953. [1]


Political career

In the 1960 election and 1963 election, 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. [2] The area had previously been receptive to social credit theory – the Social Credit Party had placed second in the 1954 election, 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. [3]

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
19661969 35th Hobson Social Credit

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. [4] 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. [4] In the 1969 election, 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. [4] The party dropped 5% in the polls and Cracknell likewise did worse in Hobson where Logan Sloane regained the seat by a substantial margin.

After Parliament

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. [5] 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 P.J. Dempsy defeated Cracknell man A.J. Gray 137 votes to 60. [6] 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. [6]

Thereafter, Cracknell had little involvement in politics, and did not attempt to regain his seat again. [7] However after O'Brien left the party and was replaced by Bruce Beetham as leader, Cracknell rejoined the party in 1975 and was made 'president emeritus' of the party and gave a speech at that years party conference which helped to calm the party and consolidate the membership around Beetham's leadership. Beetham was elected as Social Credit's second MP three years later. [1]

Later life and death

He returned to the accountancy profession before retiring in 1985. In his retirement he raised a herd of 18 Hereford steers. [1]

Cracknell died in Kawakawa in 1989 aged 77 years. He was survived by his wife Shelagh, four children and six grandchildren. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Social Credit's first MP dies". The New Zealand Herald. 6 June 1989. p. 3.
  2. Zavos 1981, p. 82.
  3. Gustafson, Barry (22 June 2007). "Rushworth, Harold Montague 1880 1950". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 Zavos 1981, p. 84.
  5. Zavos 1981, p. 85.
  6. 1 2 Zavos 1981, p. 88.
  7. Zavos 1981, p. 86.

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Party political offices
Preceded by
P. H. Matthews
Leader of the Social Credit Party
Succeeded by
John O'Brien
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Logan Sloane
Member of Parliament for Hobson
Succeeded by
Logan Sloane