Can We Trust Winston Peters?

As National suffer the predictable result of John Key’s mad scheme to change the NZ flag, the next election will present the opportunity for NZ First to decide who will lead the Government. So can we on the left trust Winston Peters?
First up, I don’t like the term kingmaker.
It’s anachronistic, even if its political meaning has evolved. We have a modern democracy, where MMP requires positivity and negotiated coalition building, not the ceding of power to an unchallengeable leader. If NZ First are in Government, it will be as a junior partner to either Labour or National.
They will have an influence, for sure, and no doubt Winston Peters will want his pick of the posts below Prime Minister. He’ll also be able to negotiate a couple of minor ministerial posts for his lieutenants. But that’s about as far as it goes for the NZ First caucus. Cabinet is not picked on a ratio that exactly mirrors election results; the largest party will always have the lion’s share. It’s more a case of a small number of Ministerial posts that have strategic value to the junior partners.
That means that of more interest to NZ First will be policy gains. That was the approach the last time they were in Government and Labour delivered for them. For example, Winston’s gold card has stood the test of time, despite the Tory governments we’ve endured since it was introduced.
So what do NZ First want and which party is more aligned with their policies?
NZ First currently base their policies on what they call their 15 Fundamental Principles.
Amongst the fifteen are left friendly positions like these:
  • Economic policy will comprise a strategy for export-lead economic development to add value to our resources, relying on independent business expertise with government support to encourage economic success.
  • The employment of New Zealanders is our first planning priority.
  • Money spent on education will be treated as an investment, not as expenditure.
  • Health will cease to be a balance sheet item.
  • Immigration will cease to be used as an excuse for our failure to train, skill and employ our own people.
  • The Welfare State must be an umbrella to meet genuine and deserving need.
  • Our foreign policy objective will be good government at home and being a reliable neighbour in our region.
  • Wise Governments view the preservation and enhancement of the environment as sound economics.
  • Strategic state asset sales will cease.

At the last election, NZ First campaigned on a manifesto that was full of ideas that were clearly supportable by the left, but not deliverable by the right. Their policies remain mostly sound and often clearly compatible with both Labour and the Green’s platforms. There is a harmony already in lots of areas between the three parties and the leadership of all three is sound.

Andrew Little, as an experienced negotiator, is in a good place to bring the parties together. If there are differences between Metiria Turei and James Shaw, on one hand, and Winston on the other, Little is the guy to find the point of agreement.

That’s already happening in Parliament.  The three parties  often work in sync to attack the Government in Parliament. However, while the Greens clearly have no alternative to Labour that wouldn’t see the party implode, NZ First certainly can flirt with National in the post election period.

But only a Labour led Government can actually deliver the majority of policies NZ First hold dear.

In addition, Winston enjoyed a progressive and positive time as part of the last Labour led Government. And it was National that forced him into the wilderness for three long years. His personal relationship with the Labour leadership is good. Much less so with National.

The Northland by-election was an absolute triumph for Winston Peters and a foretaste of what’s to come at the general election for National. So, have the Tory’s tried to rebuild their standing in the north? have the tried to work with the Northland MP?

Nope. They’ve spent the time since they were trounced building a smear campaign instead.

They’ve lied repeatedly about Peter’s presence in the electorate, ignoring the fact that he lives there, ignoring the fact that he has been a busy, active electorate MP. Instead of learning the lessons, they’ve reverted to type, bullying and bullshitting. And nobody up north is buying it.

Northland is Winston’s seat now and it will be as long as he wants it.

So, while it remains possible that NZ First could go with National post election, my reading of it is that it’s a lock that they will support Labour to form the next Government. It’s in their interests to do so, because only Labour can offer genuine support for the majority of NZ First’s policy platform.

That’s not a call for anyone to vote for them. We need the Labour and Greens vote to be as high as possible. But the simple fact remains that those two parties are 5-10% short of an outright win.

So, whether we like it or not, we need NZ First if we are to turn NZ around.

As I’ve written elsewhere, The Maori Party and Peter Dunne, should both be returned to Parliament, are likely to go with the consensus. If there is a mood for change, being opportunists, they will want to be associated with the winners. That could leave National in opposition with only the Epsom clone for company. That’s what they deserve, obviously.

So should we bothered about Winston Peters and NZ First going the other way?

Nah. There’s nothing we can do to stop him going with National, if that’s his choice.

But history and their own political policies say NZ First will support a change of Government. So lets do our own thing, build the vote on the left, and put ourselves in a position to make the next Prime Minister someone with NZ’s interests at heart.

Like it or not, we need NZ First. But first we need NZ to like us too.



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