Winston's last throw of the dice | The Jackal

21 Jun 2021

Winston's last throw of the dice

You’ve got to wonder if Winston Peters will ever retire. I mean what keeps the old rogue going? Perhaps Peters has been reinvigorated by the Government’s decision to follow through on various policy NZ First had previously put the kibosh on...or maybe he thinks there's still a chance of becoming PM. Whatever his reasons, it appears that Peters doesn’t want his political career ever to end.

There are a number of problems Peters must overcome first however, one being that his party is sitting on just a percentage point in latest polling. This lack of support should be considered a death sentence for any political party, but especially one with a leader who’s so long in the tooth. In my opinion this means that Winston will never again influence policy decisions in New Zealand.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

Winston Peters attacks Labour, 'cancel culture', and te reo usage in comeback speech

NZ First leader used his first speech since losing power to attack the Government now operating without him on a laundry list of culture war issues.

But Labour was not alone: Also on Peters’ hit list at his party’s annual general meeting was the media, the Greens, National, the Māori Party, cyclists, “cancel culture,” and the increased usage of te reo in public life – particularly the phrase "Aotearoa”.

“Who signed up to this plan to change New Zealand’s name? Who was asked. When were you asked?” Peters said.

He took particular issue with the fact the Climate Change Commission used the word “Aotearoa” over 1300 times in a recent report but “New Zealand” just 161 times.

As if attacking the Government over things National and ACT have already had a decent crack at is going to work. The main problem however for NZ First's hopes of re-election isn't just their competition, it's their failure to properly address the issue of $700,000 worth of secret bribes their NZ First Foundation received, a scandal that the party was embroiled in right through the last election. A high court trial is set down for midway through 2022.

It certainly appeared that while in Government NZ First was advocating for and on behalf of various vested interests because of the kickbacks their NZ First Foundation had received. It was also clear that NZ First lost considerable support from older right-wing voters who didn’t like seeing a party they previously thought was honest being dragged through the courts and humiliated in the media.

In fact Peters hasn’t attempted to address their valid concerns in the least, presumably because he has no excuses. It therefore doesn’t matter what issues Peters grasps at because his continued bravado in the face of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing should ensure NZ First remains on the outskirts of our political system, perhaps forever.

Peters attacked the Government over mental health, the decision to buy the land at Ihumatao, upping the Bright Line Test, remove referendas on Māori wards, the vaccine rollout, the feebate, the He Puapua report, KiwiBuild, and the stalled light rail project in Auckland.

He called the feebate “breathtaking economic illiteracy” and said the light rail project faced “insurmountable hurdles”.

Peters said the Government was “enabling a wave of rights-based activism in-and-outside of Government.”

“Everything in 2021 is now rights-based – or indigenous-rights based – demanding co-governance, or the climate strikers demanding the right to be taught more of their obsession in the curriculum.”

Another problem for NZ First is their reliance on a one-man band. Obviously the enigmatic Shane Jones doesn’t have the respect required to claw back any votes once Peters retires. Neither do any of the other NZ First candidates have the standing needed to rally much if any support. Without any succession plan the NZ First Party's days are clearly numbered.

So that leaves NZ First’s last throw of the dice totally in the hands of Winston Peters, who appears to just be going through the motions. Sure, his ability to attract the attention of some bored journalists and charm elderly predominantly white voters has played a large role in his party’s success, but the main reason NZ First managed to get back into Parliament in the past was a sequence of blunders by his opponents, usually just prior to a general election.

Those missteps, the most notable being the teapot tape scandal, often provided Peters with a much-needed platform that he likely wouldn't have had otherwise. Just two weeks before the 2011 general election for instance Peters knew exactly what to say after National Party leader John Key was caught discussing the death of NZ First supporters, which obviously rallied the troops behind Peters like nothing else could.

However that type of priceless exposure won’t happen prior to the 2023 election, mainly because Jacinda Ardern is first and foremost too much of a nice person to follow in Key’s nasty footsteps. She’s also a very skilled and experienced politician who along with the Labour Party has been relatively successfully at navigating any topics Peters might use against the Government to gain the publics attention.

It’s not like Peters has any knew ideas to offer either, just the same old rhetoric we’ve all heard a thousand times before. Complaining about Māori place names for example isn’t exactly newsworthy or going to attract new supporters, especially when there are such a large number of right wing politicians already courting the racist vote. Likewise, the other issues Peters raised in his keynote speech have already been well canvassed by either National or ACT whose similar arguments haven't been very convincing if the polls are anything to go by.

So my advice to Winston Peters is to quietly retire, because the respect and influence NZ First is searching for has disappeared like a puff of smoke in the wind.